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AJHL Weekend Preview: December 6-8

December 6th, 2019 @ 1:25 pm

Photo Credit - Target Photography:

With the December roster cut down come and gone, the AJHL’s fifteen teems can now focus on the pre-Christmas grind at the halfway mark of the 2019-2020 campaign.  This weekend features a bevy of rivalry games across both divisions, including a Saturday night showdown for 1st place in the North.

Bonnyville Pontiacs
20-8-2
3rd AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs Oil Barons; Sunday vs Oil Barons

The Bonnyville Pontiacs have collected victories in four straight games and have won five of their last six, scoring at least 5 goals in each win.  Their most recent win was certainly a statement victory, as they handed the Sherwood Park Crusaders their third loss of the season.  What made the win more impressive is the Pontiacs rallied from 3-0 and 4-3 deficits to snag the big two points.  This weekend, the Pontiacs will play a double-header against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons, who they’ve taken two of three from this season.

Brooks Bandits
29-1-1
1st AJHL South
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Dragons; Saturday vs Grizzlys

After falling in overtime in Bonnyville in mid-November, the freight train that is the Brooks Bandits is once again at full steam, entering the weekend on a five game roll in which they’ve outscored opponents 22-8.  The latest Bandits win came 2-1 in overtime over the Dragons on Wednesday, courtesy of a power play goal by Brayden Krieger.  The Bandits will renew hostilities with the Dragons to begin the weekend, visiting the Badlands on Friday, before returning home to face the Olds Grizzlys on Saturday. Brooks is also without defencemen Corson Ceulemans and Ethan Lund, as they’ll both don the maple leaf for Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge.

Calgary Canucks
4-26-1
7th AJHL South
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Grizzlys; Saturday @ Oilers

The Calgary Canucks had been playing better after a slow start, picking up two wins in November, but find themselves mired in another slump in December.  Currently being outscored 28-6 during their current four game slide, the Canucks will be eager to get back in the win column on Friday against the Olds Grizzlys, the team they must catch for the final playoff spot in the AJHL South.  It doesn’t get easier for the Canucks over the weekend, as they will then visit the 24-4-2 Okotoks Oilers on Saturday.

Camrose Kodiaks
12-13-3
4th AJHL South
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Eagles; Saturday vs Eagles

The Camrose Kodiaks opened up their month of December with a gritty 4-3 win on the road in Drayton Valley on Sunday and have the opportunity to build some momentum at home this weekend in a key back-to-back series against the Canmore Eagles.  The Kodiaks have split their first two games with Canmore this year.  The win over the Thunder last weekend was also a welcome burst of offence as the Kodiaks had a pair of lopsided losses at the end of November.  Forward Cody Laskosky continues fill the net, with 11 points (4g-7a) in his last 8 games.

Canmore Eagles
9-16-4
5th AJHL South
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Kodiaks; Saturday @ Kodiaks

The Canmore Eagles will try to breakout of a four game skid this weekend in a pair of key divisional games against the Camrose Kodiaks – no small challenge that will be amplified without leading scorer Alex Young, who’s playing for Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge.  The Eagles will prioritize playing a full 60 minutes, as they fell short of ending their losing streak against Bonnyville last weekend despite leads of 3-1 and 4-2.  While Young will certainly be missed, forward Connor Lyons (19-27-46) will still be a formidable force the Kodiaks will need to be wary of.

Drayton Valley Thunder
10-16-4
6th AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Wolverines; Sunday @ Wolverines

After a two-game win streak was snapped in a close 4-3 setback to the Kodiaks, the Drayton Valley Thunder look to storm into this weekend with a pair of rivalry games against the Whitecourt Wolverines.  The Thunder dug deep in the Kodiaks loss, nearly forcing overtime after a 4-1 deficit, outshooting Camrose 20-6 in the 3rd period and 45-20 overall.  Forward Jeremy Klessens is red hot, collecting 3 goals and 7 points in his last four games. 

Drumheller Dragons
17-10-3
3rd AJHL South
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Bandits; Saturday @ Oilers

The Drumheller Dragons were a shot away from giving the Brooks Bandits their first loss at home on Wednesday, but had to settle for a single point as the Bandits were able to edge Drumheller 2-1.  The Dragons will look to avenge the missed opportunity just 48 hours later, as they host the Bandits at Drumheller Memorial Arena on Friday night.  The Dragons are also searching for their first win over Brooks in five tries this season, though two of the losses have come in overtime.  On Saturday, the Dragons will have another tough matchup against the Okotoks Oilers. 

Fort McMurray Oil Barons
11-18-1
7th AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Bobcats; Saturday @ Pontiacs; Sunday @ Pontiacs

After their worst defeat in recent memory, 11-1 in Spruce Grove on November 22nd, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons have responded in kind.  Winners of two in a row and four of their last six, the MOB will try to extend their win streak on Friday night in Lloydminster before spending the rest of the weekend in Bonnyville for a back-to-back against the Pontiacs.  The Oil Barons are a flawless 4-0 against Lloydminster so far this season, while they’ve beaten Bonnyville once through three contests. 

Grande Prairie Storm
11-15-3
5th AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Exhibition vs Czech Republic – World Jr A. Challenge

Fresh off back-to-back overtime wins versus the Spruce Grove Saints, the Grande Prairie Storm won’t play any league games this weekend after hosting Team Czech Republic for an exhibition game ahead of the World Junior A Challenge.  A Storm comeback bid fell short in the 3rd period with the Czechs skating to a 6-4 win.

Lloydminster Bobcats
4-22-3
8th AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Oil Barons; Sunday @ Saints

The Lloydminster Bobcats will have a pair of opportunities for revenge over a pair of opponents who handed them losses just a week ago.  Last weekend, the Bobcats would lose back-to-back games by just a single goal to the MOB, falling 1-0 and 4-3, before an 8-3 loss to Spruce Grove.  The Bobcats will have an opportunity against Fort McMurray first, before finishing the weekend in on the road in Spruce Grove on Sunday.  Forward Chad MacLean is pacing the Bobcats offence of late with three goals in his last two games. 

Okotoks Oilers
24-4-2
2nd AJHL South
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs Canucks; Sunday vs Dragons

The Okotoks Oilers are coming off a tremendous November, going 10-2-0, and they find themselves tied for 2nd overall in the AJHL and behind only the Brooks Bandits in the AJHL South.  The Oilers have an advantage for the foreseeable future: they’re the only top four team in the AJHL that isn’t loaning players to Team Canada West for the World Junior A Challenge.  The Oilers will look to use their full lineup to gain some ground on Brooks this weekend when the take on the Calgary Canucks and Drumheller Dragons at home.

Olds Grizzlys
7-17-4
6th AJHL South
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Canucks; Saturday @ Bandits

The Olds Grizzlys have come up short in their last two games following a two-game win streak and will look to a rivalry game in Calgary against the Canucks to get back in the black.  The Grizzlys have already found success against Calgary this season, picking up nine out of a possible ten points in the first five meetings. 

Sherwood Park Crusaders
25-3-0
T-1st AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Saturday @ Saints

The Sherwood Park Crusaders have just a single game on their weekend schedule, but it’s a big one.  On Saturday night, the Crusaders will clash with the Saints in one of the best rivalries in the AJHL and the winner will have sole possession of 1st in the AJHL North.  All areas of the Crusaders lineup on Saturday will be affected by the World Junior A Challenge, as league leading scorer Carter Savoie will be joined by defenceman Michael Benning and goaltender Carter Gylander on Team Canada West. 

Spruce Grove Saints
24-5-2
T-1st AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs Crusaders; Sunday vs Bobcats

The Saints have their eyes on 1st place in the AJHL North when they host the Sherwood Park Crusaders on Saturday night, but like their Capital Region rivals, their lineup will also be affected by Team Canada West representation.  The Saints will be without goaltender Matthew Davis, defenceman Ethan Edwards and forward Cam Mitchell.  After the first place showdown, the Saints will end the weekend hosting the Lloydminster Bobcats, who they felled 8-3 last weekend.

Whitecourt Wolverines
14-11-3
4th AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Thunder; Sunday vs Thunder

Cassidy Bowes (9 points in his last 5 games) and the Whitecourt Wolverines have a chance to put further distance between themselves and the Drayton Valley Thunder in a home-and-home this weekend that begins on the road Friday.  Sunday’s game in Whitecourt will be the Wolverines’ first home game since November 15th.

@TomStrangward

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