By Bernd Van't Klooster (@Berndthoughts)
Photo By Erin Linn
It was a positive weekend for the Calgary Canucks, earning their first win of the 2018/2019 Alberta Hockey Junior League regular season. After a tough opening weekend, the Canucks found a way to grind out a tough game against the Olds Grizzlys. The Grizz came in hungry to win their first of the year as well, after a 0-2-0 start they came out of the gate with some early pressure. After holding off an early surge, the Canucks were able to do something they wanted to do, convert on the power play. Calgary’s man advantage came through in a big way on Friday night, scoring 3 on 4 opportunities.
Special teams are huge in the AJHL, and is often what separates teams in the standings as well. When you manage to convert 75 percent of your power play opportunities you put yourself in a good position to win. That’s where the Canucks were early in the 3rd period against Olds, with a couple rookies leading the charge. Dylan Clark continued his hot start to the season with a goal and 3 assists earning him game star honours. Ryan Wallz started his Canucks career at the Ken Bracko Arena with 2 power play goals, while 4th year AJHLer Adamu Tanaka picked up 4 helpers on the night. At the end of the day though, it was Blake Pilon closing the door late with a couple game saving stops. The Grizzlys would add 2 late in the 3rd, but the Canucks hung on for a 5-4 win.
After picking up some confidence and getting a lot of firsts out of the way, it was back to the Father David Bauer Arena for another Battle of Calgary. After recently being with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders, Brett Balas would get his first AJHL start Monday night against the Mustangs. Ethan Rowland scored the opening goal on his 16th birthday, and Dylan Clark would add another for a 2-0 Canucks lead half way through the game. Much like Pilon a few nights earlier, Balas would also see a lot of rubber. With 42 seconds left in the game, the Mustangs surge cracked burst the Canucks dam. It was free hockey night for fans at the Father David Bauer, as the Canucks played their first overtime hockey of the regular season. It would go the distance, and the Mustangs would score the lone goal in the shootout, and take home the come from behind win.
Like I mentioned off the top, it was a positive weekend. Picking up their first win against Olds really boosted confidence. It was not the same game we saw just a week prior against the Mustangs, a 7-1 set back. I would argue that the Canucks looked like the sharper team for much of the game, with the Mustangs able to capitalize on some mistakes. That’s hockey sometimes. The shot clock continues to be a story line, and it doesn’t seem to matter who’s in the pipes. I’m not breaking any secrets saying that’s something the Canucks want to work on, but for now, you gotta like the progress we are seeing otherwise. The young forwards are a lot of fun to watch, and they play a fun brand of hockey when the team is in stride. Let’s hope this weekend of firsts, leads to lots more fun hockey and an exciting showing at the AJHL Showcase.