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AJHL Weekend Preview: January 17th-19th

January 17th, 2020 @ 8:58 am

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With just over a dozen games left for all 15 AJHL teams, the games and the points matter more than ever as the push towards the playoffs continues.  Both division leaders have cushions of less than 10 points while there’s ample room for a shuffling of the playoff deck as we enter the campaign’s stretch drive.  Here’s what’s ahead for each team this weekend. 

Bonnyville Pontiacs
28-3-2
3rd AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Saints; Saturday vs Oilers

The Bonnyville Pontiacs seek to climb to the .500 mark for the month of January has they host a pair of heavy tilts at the RJ Lalonde Arena this weekend against the Spruce Grove Saints on Friday and the Okotoks Oilers on Saturday.  At 2-3 in the New Year, Bonnyville returned to the win column in a big way on Wednesday by upending the Sherwood Park Crusaders 3-2, with Bruce MacGregor tallying a goal and an assist while Daine Dubois scored the winner with less than 10 minutes left in the third period.  The Pontiacs have met the Saints recently, a high scoring 6-5 loss at the Grant Fuhr Arena last Sunday.

Brooks Bandits
38-3-1
1st AJHL South
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Bobcats; Saturday @ Crusaders

A runaway freight train to start the season, the Brooks Bandits find themselves at .500 in January with a two-game winning streak following a brief two-game slide.  The Bandits dominated the Olds Grizzlys and Calgary Canucks last weekend, outscoring the opposition 14-1, and will look to add to their winning streak on the road.  After opening their weekend in Lloydminster, there’s a potential championship preview as the Bandits visit the Crusaders in Sherwood Park.  The marquee matchup will be the first of the year between the two high calibre offences, who are 1-2 in league scoring and boast the top five-point scorers in the AJHL between them.  Brooks forward Brayden Krieger is on an absolute tear, with 31 points over a 15-game point streak. 

Calgary Canucks
6-36-2
7th AJHL South
Weekend Schedule: Friday at Dragons; Saturday vs Dragons

The Calgary Canucks endeavour to shake off a two-game bogey with a home-and-home battle with the Drumheller Dragons this weekend.  Outscored 16-1 in their last two games and shutout twice this month, the Canucks hope to focus their energy on some improvements on both ends of the ice as chase down the final playoff spot in the AJHL South.  Calgary has shown some gutsy efforts this month, such as taking the Spruce Grove Saints to overtime in a close 2-1 road loss. 

Camrose Kodiaks
21-18-3
4th AJHL South
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Storm; Saturday @ Wolverines

In every game the Kodiaks have played in 2020, at least 7 goals combined have been scored as the Kodiaks sit at 3-2 on the month and are just six points behind the Dragons for third in the South.  The Kodiaks, coming off a 6-3 doubling of the Grizzlys in Tuesday’s Battle of the Bears, will roam to Grande Prairie and Whitecourt this weekend.  Cody Laskosky has the hot hand of late, with points in his last six and goals in back to back games. 

Canmore Eagles
16-24-4
5th AJHL South
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Grizzlys; Saturday vs Grizzlys

In their last two games, the Canmore Eagles have shutout the opposition and been shutout themselves after a 4-0 blanking of the Lloydminster Bobcats was followed by a 5-0 loss to the Dragons.  It was the first time the Eagles were held off the scoresheet all season so expect Canmore to be extra fired up for this weekend’s home-and-home against the Grizzlys, which opens in Olds on Friday night.  Canmore is 3-0 against Olds on the season, tallying up 16 goals in the victories. 

Drayton Valley Thunder
18-19-6
5th AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Wolverines; Sunday @ Crusaders

The Drayton Valley Thunder have won four of their last six and are on a dramatic three-game winning streak, as they were all one goal games and the last two requiring extra time.  The Thunder open their weekend in Whitecourt where they’ll vie to take another two points from the Wolverines, who they struck down 3-2 in overtime on Tuesday night.  After Whitecourt tied the game at 2-2 with just 5:02 remaining, Dexton Mozell scored the winner with only fourteen seconds remaining in a back-and-forth overtime. 

Drumheller Dragons
24-15-3
3rd AJHL South
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Canucks; Saturday @ Canucks

The Drumheller Dragons begin their home-and-home against the Calgary Canucks in style on Friday night, wearing vintage purple-and-yellow Drumheller Falcons sweaters for the AJHL’s Heritage Weekend.  The Dragons will look to stay hot in their cool jerseys, as they’ve won three in a row and four of their last five.  The Dragons have dominated the Canucks thus far this season, going 4-0 and racking up 21 goals while only allowing six.  Eric Martin and Shane Ott have been frequent contributors during the winning start to 2020, with respective point streaks of five and four games.  

Fort McMurray Oil Barons
15-27-2
7th AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Oilers; Saturday vs Saints

The AJHL’s all-time winningest coach is back in the Mac.  Earlier this week, it was announced Gord Thibodeau will take over the team and will serve as the new Oil Barons Head Coach and General Manager.  Thibodeau served the same roles for over a decade in the early 2000’s leading the Oil Barons to five AJHL finals and a championship in 2006.  Thibodeau will look to turn around Fort McMurray’s recent fortunes, as the MOB are 2-8-0 in their last 10 games and have lost four in a row. 

Grande Prairie Storm
17-19-4
6th AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Kodiaks

Although they’ve lost two of their last three, the Grande Prairie Storm have picked up points in back-to-back games and are coming off a 3-2 win of the division-leading Sherwood Park Crusaders on Sunday.  The Storm have just a lone game this weekend, hosting the Camrose Kodiaks on Friday night.  Forward Brody Dale has points in four straight contests, potting two goals and adding three assists in the streak. 

Lloydminster Bobcats
6-31-4
8th AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Bandits; Sunday vs Oilers

The Lloydminster Bobcats are at home this weekend, but their quest for their first win of 2020 will be arduous with two of the top teams in the league in the Brooks Bandits and Okotoks Oilers visiting from the South.  The Bobcats are hoping home ice will serve up an advantage, as they’ll lace up in front of their hometown fans for the first time since January 3rd, when they were felled 4-3 by the Camrose Kodiaks in a hard-fought game.

Okotoks Oilers
33-6-3
2nd AJHL South
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Oil Barons; Saturday @ Pontiacs; Sunday @ Bobcats

Winners of five straight, the Okotoks Oilers will head up North to drill for points this weekend on a busy three games in as many days road trip.  The Oilers open the trip up in Fort McMurray on Friday, which will make the second meeting of the week between the two teams after Okotoks edged the MOB 2-1 last Saturday.  From there, Okotoks heads to Bonnyville before wrapping things up in Lloydminster on Sunday.  Over their five game win streak, Okotoks is averaging over 5 goals per game. 

Olds Grizzlys
9-28-5
6th AJHL South
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Eagles; Saturday @ Eagles

The Olds Grizzlys will go head-to-head with the Canmore Eagles twice this weekend, hosting them on Friday before heading to the mountains on Saturday.  Since starting the New Year with a 4-3 overtime win over the Okotoks Oilers, the Grizzlys have dropped four of five with all four losses coming away from the Olds Sportsplex.  On home ice for just the second time this month on Friday, the Grizzlys will try to get back in the win column and earn their first victory over Canmore this season. 

Sherwood Park Crusaders
36-6-0
1st AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs Bandits; Sunday vs Thunder

The Sherwood Park Crusaders are having one of their best seasons in franchise history and on Saturday night, they’ll take on the defending AJHL Champions in the Brooks Bandits.  It’s the first meeting of the two teams who are the top two ranked Junior A teams in the country.  The Crusaders will head into the game having lost three of their last four games, and getting back in the win column by beating the Bandits would be a big morale boost – and a big statement in Junior A hockey. 

Spruce Grove Saints
31-11-2
2nd AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Wolverines; Saturday @ Wolverines

The Spruce Grove Saints have cannonballed into 2020 with four wins in five games, including holding off a Bonnyville Pontiacs surge on Sunday to take a 6-5 win.  The two teams will meet again on Friday, this time in Bonnyville, and then the Saints will head further north to play the Fort McMurray Oil Barons.  The Saints are a combined 7-1 against these two north division opponents this season. 

Whitecourt Wolverines
19-15-5
4th AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Thunder; Saturday vs Kodiaks

To begin 2020, the Whitecourt Wolverines have picked up 7 of a possible 8 points, going 3-0-1 with wins against the Dragons, Grizzlys, and Crusaders before falling in overtime to the Thunder on Tuesday.  The Wolverines get another crack at Drayton Valley this weekend, hosting the Thunder on Friday night before they entertain the Camrose Kodiaks on Saturday.  Wolverine Ryan Wallz has picked up goals in three straight games, which is tied Jordan Ci Cicco and TJ Hughes of the Bandits for the longest current streak in the league.

@TomStrangward

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