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Canmore Eagles fighting for top spot in new AJHL play-in series

“We’ll just let the chips fall where they may and take our opponent whoever it may be."

CANMORE – With three playoff hopefuls tied in the standings, a lot was riding on the Canmore Eagles’ final home game of the season.

The local junior A hockey club was fighting for the best possible spot in the AJHL play-in series when they took on the playoff-bound Calgary Canucks on Tuesday (Feb. 27), but a 6-1 loss pushed the Eagles’ odds down of landing a more favourable play-in series opponent – both competitively and for travel distance.

“We’ll just let the chips fall where they may and take our opponent whoever it may be,” said Andrew Milne, Eagles head coach and general manager.

The Eagles go head-to-head with the Kodiaks in Camrose Friday (March 1) in both of their final games of the season. Standings-wise, it’s about as crucial for both as it gets as they have 51 points each. 

In the play-in series, the Eagles will either go up against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons or Drayton Valley Thunder, which are battling for the No. 9 and 10 ranking, or the last place Olds Grizzlys.

Following a mass exodus of five teams from the AJHL earlier this year to the BCHL, the league restructured its schedules for the regular season and playoffs, including a best of five play-in tournament between the bottom six teams (No. 6-11).

The top five teams have already made the playoffs, which officially start March 15, and will be played between the top eight teams.

The Grande Prairie Storm also have 51 points, but have two games remaining, and with the Eagles and Kodiaks, the trio make up the No. 6-8 seeds.

Should a tie in points occur, the Eagles hold the season-series edge over the Kodiaks (3-1), but not the Storm (1-3).

However, it’s more than safe to assume that the Oil Barons are being treated as the grotesque leper everyone is avoiding due to mammoth travel distances, including a headache-ensuing 830 kilometres of pavement separating Canmore and Fort Mac. 

“We’ll be just fine with whatever opponent we play,” said Eagles captain Brody Tallman. “But we have to be ready and focus on ourselves and come at every game like our season is on the line and come with a winning mentality.”

The Eagles had an opportunity to give themselves a bit of breathing room Tuesday, but fell apart in the third period.

Tied one all, the Canucks went on a scoring rampage, with five goals in the final 13 minutes.

“We got frustrated that we weren’t executing well,” said Milne. “It was our fault, we didn’t play well on the execution side of the game and we got frustrated and took some penalties and hung our goalie out.”

Affiliate goalie Hudson Sedo played the full 60 minutes for the banged up Eagles, but Milne said No. 1 goalie Matthew Malin and Matthew Kieper will be ready to play Friday in Camrose. Puck drop is 7 p.m.

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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