By Bernd Van't Klooster (@Berndthoughts)
The Alberta Junior Hockey League regular season got under way for all 16 team this past weekend. On Friday night the Calgary Canucks played host to the Canmore Eagles to start their year off, but things didn’t go as hoped. There has been no denial of where the Canucks are right now, it’s a full on rebuild and Head Coach Darryl Olsen is determined to find the right parts. Throughout the pre-season and now in the early days of the regular season, the message remains the same. The results are one thing, but right now, it’s about development and adjusting to life in the AJHL.
18-year-old Blake Pilon got the nod against the Eagles, and had a busy night in between the pipes. Canmore managed a power play goal courtesy of Daly Hamilton in the 1st, opening up flood gates for the final 40 minutes. The Eagles scored 9 on 54 shots, and spoiled the ‘Nucks home opener with a 9-3 decision. Captain Cooper Johnson scored the first goal of the season, with Jackson Zloty and Cameron Pollock-Hughes adding tallies as well. Pollock-Hughes, a product of the Calgary Flames Midget AAA program, came away with a goal and the Canucks game star in his first AJHL game.
With plenty of positives to take away from Friday night, the attention shifted to Sunday’s, #LightTheRink game for the HumboldtStrong Community Foundation. The Canucks pride themselves on community, and what happened on April 6th affected our community, and hockey as a whole. Thank you to all those who came out to #LightTheRink against the Brooks Bandits. No amount of money can ever fill the hole left by those who are no longer here, but it’s up to us in the hockey community to do all we can. After an emotional tribute and ceremony with minor hockey players on hand, it was back to work. Pilon would once again get the start versus the Bandits, and again would see a lot of shots against. It was a hard fought and fast paced game, with tons of bright spots for Canucks fans. The speed and sure talent of the young Canucks can take over games at times, but part of being a rookie or young player is making mistakes. There were plenty of positives to take from the game, but Brooks is hosting the RBC Cup in the spring and have a veteran heavy line up with an abundance of talent. At the end of the day, the skill and experience outshone the Canucks, suffering a 9-3 setback. 19-year-old Dylan Clark scored his first AJHL goal and picked up game start honors for the Canucks, after a rally in the 3rd period sparked by Cooper Johnson. 17-year-old Jackson Zloty picked up another, and now has 2 goals in his first 3 AJHL games.
The Canucks closed out opening weekend on Monday night, across town in the Father David Bauer, where the rival Calgary Mustangs would walk away with a 7-1 result. The Stangs got off to an early start, putting one behind Pilon just a minute in, and they wouldn’t look back. The Canucks we’re unable to capitalize on the man advantage, while the Mustangs tallied 2 goals on 6 opportunities. Nic Herrigner tallied the Canucks lone goal of the night, but there were more positives to take away from the game.
The results right now aren’t the most flattering thing to look at, but this is about more than that right now. The Canucks have a lot of talent in the lineup, with big upside. You can see flashes of pure skill and 3 games in, there is no question this is a hard working group. Coach Olsen has, and continues to make it clear that he wants character guys. During a rebuild there can be dark nights, but it’s important to see the light at the end of the tunnel. For Canucks fans, that light is very, very bright.