Eagles sliding to .500 mark
Four weeks before Halloween, the spectre of Canmore Eagles’ seasons past reared its ugly head on Saturday (Oct. 6) at Alex Kaleta Arena.
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, the Eagles put forth their worst third period on home ice this AJHL season, dropping a 5-4 overtime decision to the hapless Calgary Canucks.
Zack Rassell scored twice in the losing effort, as the team dropped to 4-3-3 on the season. Winless in five straight games, the Eagles hope to find the win column Friday (Oct. 12) against Lloydminster at Alex Kaleta Arena.
Head coach Andrew Milne blasted his team’s maturity, stating sloppy mistakes cost the team a win.
“That was last year all over again. Those were old habits and bad habits. It was not mature hockey,” Milne said. “It was our worst effort all year. It’s shocking. We didn’t execute and we lost momentum.”
After stringing together an impressive four-game win streak, the Eagles have dropped four in a row and risk slipping under .500.
The Eagles exerted great pressure in the opening frame, but had terrible finish. Luke Simpson missed an open net and on a breakaway, while Nils Moser whiffed on two glorious chances of his own. The Canucks’ fortunes improved when a defensive turnover led to a knuckelball of a shot from Reed Murray that eluded goalie Cam Barnes.
Forty seconds into the second period, the Canucks scored again with a Gianni Mangone point shot and the Eagles were in tough.
Steven Phee finally got the Eagles back into the game at the 2:21 mark when he found a hole at the side of the net. Moser and Ciaron Driscoll drew assists.
Rassell then continued his hot play, roofing a shot from a tough angle to tie the game. On a powerplay, Rassell struck again, his seventh of the season, matching his goal output from last year. The goal gave the Eagles a 3-2 lead and Riley Point and Alex Barnes drew assists.
Point put the Eagles ahead 4-2 to start the second period on the powerplay and the Eagles appeared to cruise through the rest of the game.
That is, until the final four minutes of the third, shortly after broken glass behind the Eagles net stopped play for about five minutes. After a big forechecking effort by Moser, Simpson and Point, the Canucks caught a lucky break when a shot deflected off an Eagle’s shinpad straight to Caunuck Derek Thorogood, who made no mistake with his shot.
Forty seconds later, with the same Eagles on the ice, Canuck Murray blasted a one-timer that found the back of the net. In overtime, the Eagles were shorthanded and, despite several big saves from Barnes, the Canucks snuck one past him for the win.
Milne said the entire team deserved credit for the loss, and was upset that so many “nothing plays” turned into goals for the Canucks.
“We started poorly, but had a great second period and got the lead,” said Point. “The glass broke, we took one shift off and it cost us. Their first goal was a lucky bounce, but you’ve got to mentally reset. Two goals on the same shift should never happen.”
Since three of the team’s five losses have come in overtime, Point believes things can turn around quickly.
“Those are the games we’ve got to swing. But after the first 10 games we’re .500 and that’s the first time in a long time for the Eagles franchise,” Point said.
After Lloydminster, the Eagles will face the first-place Brooks Bandits Tuesday (Oct. 16) at Alex Kaleta.
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