Eagles off to stellar start
The Canmore Eagles’ four-game AJHL win streak came to an end when they suffered a 1-0 overtime decision to the Okotoks Oilers, Tuesday (Sept. 25).
Goaltender Ty Swabb was perfect for 60 minutes, however, at 3:22 into the extra frame, Oiler Nick Joseph managed to break the goose egg when Okotoks picked off an errant pass from Swabb and was handed an open net.
“It was a really good hockey game by both sides.We made few mistakes and controlled the play,” said head coach Andrew Milne. “We hit three posts and had back-to-back powerplays in the third, but just couldn’t bury our chances.”
The start is still the Eagles’ best in two years, as they currently sit with a 4-1-1 record heading into the AJHL showcase weekend in Spruce Grove. The weekend draws scouts from schools and clubs across North America. The Eagles will face Grande Prairie and Bonnyville over the weekend.
“The guys are feeling good about their game. We can play with any team in the league and the group is gaining confidence every day.”
The team has now strung together five strong performances, including a 3-2 win over the Calgary Canucks on Saturday (Sept. 22). Zack Rassell scored twice for the Eagles in that match, and Steven Phee got the winner with less than a minute in the third.
On Friday (Sept. 21), the Eagles ran a winning streak to three games with a 3-1 victory over the Drumheller Dragons.
In a first period that saw the Eagles dominate the Dragons, Phee needed just 49 seconds to put Canmore on the board, as he beat Dragons goalie Christopher Wray.
On a powerplay at 4:03, Phee chased Wray from the net when he scored the game winner with a softy through the five-hole for a 2-0 lead.
The Dragons replaced Wray with Jameson Shortreed, who turned in a stellar effort as the Eagles outshot Drumheller 14-4 in the first period, with many shots being quality chances or near misses. Without Shortreed’s play, the Eagles could likely have been up 4-0 as Canmore’s Swabb was rarely tested.
That would change in the second period, though, as the Dragons pulled things together in the second period and closed to 2-1 when the Eagles gave up a two on one opportunity, with Ryan Aasman taking a cross crease pass to beat Swabb high on the glove side.
Swabb was strong through the remainder of the game, making big saves when called upon, particularly in the third period, when the Eagles took all three of the final frame’s penalties, including a pair by Nils Moser.
In the end, the teams traded time outs late in the period and, with Shortreed out of the net with 1:20 remaining, Eagles captain Riley Point scored the clincher with a backhander at 18:53 that barely made it to the back of the net.
Throughout the game, the Eagles used speed to break out of their end quickly and to aggressively forecheck the Dragons.
“I thought in the first period we played very well,” said new Eagles assistant coach Jeremy Reich. “In the second, they probably got a tongue lashing between periods and they came out really hard.
“But Swabby played really well and made big saves when we needed them. That was a good character game. The boys played well and are learning what it takes to win.
“Those 2-1 games you’ve got to win or they’ll bite you in the butt later on in the season.”
The Eagles were effective on both the penalty kill and powerplay, “and we’re having some success there by keeping things simple,” said Reich. “We’ve been working on some new things, it’s a process, but we’ve got guys who can skate and carry the puck. You can’t score goals if you can’t skate it out of your end.”
Reich, who’s known Milne for years, back to when they played together in the WHL with the Swift Current Broncos, has been working with the Eagles on the defensive game and penalty kill.
“Scoring wasn’t my thing when I played (AHL, Boston Bruins, last year with the Ingolstadt Panthers in Germany), so I’m just helping Andrew with some of the systems from last year. I’m giving some input and doing what I can to help.”
Reich said he’d pondered AHL play again this year, but the NHL lockout posed problems there. But, when the opportunity to step into coaching with the Eagles arose, he took it and moved his wife and daughters to the valley.
“I feel I could still be playing, but I’ve also wanted to get into coaching. This may be that first step.”
Reich is on the books for just this year,” then we’ll see how it goes.”
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