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'Massive strides' made during Canmore Eagles season

After a strenuous season on and off the ice, the Canmore Eagles wrap up the year after 73 games across the regular season, play-in and playoffs series.
Matthew Malin high-fives fans after Game 6 against the Whitecourt Wolverines in Canmore on Sunday (April 7). The Eagles won 2-0 against the Wolverines. MATTHEW THOMPSON RMO PHOTO

CANMORE – After a strenuous season on and off the ice, the Canmore Eagles season wrapped up after 73 games across the regular season, play-in and playoff series.

The Eagles' fell in Game 7 of the second round to the Whitecourt Wolverines, which saw the team come to close to its first ever appearance at the Alberta Junior Hockey League finals.

“We came a long way. I couldn’t be more proud of the guys and the way we finished out,” said Eagles' captain Brody Tallman. “Definitely, maybe, not the start that we wanted, but we really came together in the last couple months of the year. And we proved a lot of people wrong.”

The Eagles capped off the regular season with 25 wins to 29 losses and 53 points overall, which made them the No. 7 seed team.

The Eagles started the season on a rough note, losing 12-out-of-17 games in the first two months. But their gameplay started to turn for the better with 12 wins and nine loses in the following two months. In the New Year, they tightened the gap between their losses winning eight of 11 games.

“I think you saw the development of our hockey club from September to April and we’re one period win away from playing in the AJHL finals. And I think that talks about the development,” said Andrew Milne, Eagles' head coach and general manager.

“I mean, Matt Malin, our goaltender had a tough start to the season and just look at the way he finished phenomenal down the stretch.”

Malin ended with a 0.907 save percentage and a 2.89 goals against average (GAA). In the playoffs, he finished with a 0.903 save percentage and a 2.89 GAA.

One highlight early on was when the Brooks Bandits, the league's top team at the time, had their 16-game win streak taken away when the Eagles won 4-1 on Dec 12.

After a mass departure of five teams – Brooks Bandits, Okotoks Oilers, Blackfalds Bulldogs, Spruce Grove Saints and Sherwood Park Crusaders – from the AJHL to the British Columbia Hockey League, the AJHL was forced to restructure, which amounted to the best-of-five play-in series for the bottom six teams to earn their spot in the playoffs.

“We faced tons of adversity throughout the season. And then just a tumultuous year off the ice in terms of the five team’s exodus and the uncertainty and just a lot going on distractions away from the rink,” said Milne.

Due to the exodus, the Eagles travelled more than 3,000 kilometres after they had to play some of the furthest teams in the play-in and playoffs.

“It’s just not ideal by any means to have to travel that far and spend all that expense just to play hockey games in the Alberta junior league. It is not something that's sustainable long term,” said Milne.

In the play-in series, the Eagles took charge against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons and defeated them in three games.

Going into round one of the playoffs, the Eagles came in hot with an 8-3 win against the Lloydminster Bobcats. They ended the series in Game 6 with their second shutout and outscored them overall in the series 26 to 13.

After a tough battle in round two of the playoffs, the Eagles were knocked out in a 3-1 loss in Game 7 on Wednesday (April 9) against Whitecourt on their home ice after the Wolverines scored three consecutive power play goals.

“I thought it was a great game. We got a lead early. They played pretty hard to start the game, they came at us with everything they had, which we knew they would. I think it was a pretty good game for the whole game,” said Milne.

“Playing a Game 7 is a moment that these guys will never forget.”

Tallman wanted to thank the fans and volunteers for their support on behalf of the team.

“I just want to add in, just a thank you to our fans and anyone who supported. This place for me, has been a super special place to play. And it's because of all the volunteers and the crazy fans that we have,” he said.

After two seasons with the Eagles and six overall in the AJHL, Tallman will be heading to MacEwan University in Edmonton to play with the Griffins next year.

Milne said that the team should be proud of how they played this season.

“I think they should all be really proud of the way they played and really happy, and I think there'll be some massive strides for these guys in their development because of this,” said Milne.

About the Author: Matthew Thompson

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