The AJHL postseason kicked off last night across the province with six first-round matchups on the card. The night was filled with highlight reel goals, superb goaltending, and a game for the ages.
Here’s how it all shaped out:
Calgary Canucks 5 – 6 OT Okotoks Oilers
Oilers lead series 1-0
In possibly the game of the year, the Calgary Canucks looked well on their way to causing one of the biggest game one upsets after Leighton Burns-Marion made it 5-2 with an empty net goal with less than two minutes to play.
Little did the fans who left early know that they would be missing one of the best comebacks in the AJHL history. With 1:03 left, the Okotoks Oilers scored not once, not twice, but three times to tie the game up at 5-5 and send game one to overtime. Captain Kyle Gordon scored goals four and five 19 seconds apart as the Oilers went on to outshoot the Oilers 27 to ONE in the third period.
Captain Gordon completed the comeback and his hat trick nine minutes into overtime to give the Oilers a 1-0 series lead in what could be one of the best playoff games in the AJHL history.
Canmore Eagles 2 – 1 OT Drumheller Dragons
Eagles lead series 1-0
The Canmore Eagles stole game one on the road in the Drumheller in what was a tight contest all around.
Dragons captain Markus Boguslavsky opened the scoring late in the first period with a heavy slapshot from the top of the right faceoff for his fourth career playoff goal.
After a close second period which saw no goals, a quick turn of events midway through the third had the game changed the outlook of the game. A quick snapshot from Scout Truman (UMass Lowell) beat Thomas Davis but couldn’t beat the post to give the Dragons a 2-0 goal lead. Almost immediately after, Quinton Ong (Yale University) turned the puck up ice with speed and beat Hunter Virostek (Albertus Magnus College) shorthanded in what was an excellent solo effort to tie the game up at 1-1.
Three periods couldn’t separate the these two South Division foes, so we were heading to overtime. It didn’t long, however, for the deadlock to be broken. Just 56 seconds into the extra frame, Alex Young (Colgate University) stripped the Dragons defenceman behind the next and then found Owen Reith in front who made no mistake in given the Eagles a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead.
Calgary Mustangs 2 – 7 Camrose Kodiaks
Kodiaks lead series 1-0
It was the Kodiaks who dominated from start to finish last night at the Encana Arena.
Jacob Kendall (Niagara University) opened up the scoring account on the AJHL postseason five minutes into the first period after put his own rebound by Ben Howard to make it 1-0 Kodiaks.
Scoring didn’t stop there with Dawson Schwengler, Cody Laskosky, and Kyler Kupka (St Cloud State University) all getting their names on the boxscore before the end of the 40 minutes. The Mustangs did manage to pull one back from star forward Joseph Karapyshyn putting them down by only three heading into the second intermission.
The third period was the same as the second with the Kodiaks scoring three (Cooper Johnson, Erik Miller, and Laskosky, again) while the Mustangs managed to only net one from Brady Barclay.
Griffin Bowerman continued his hot streak between the pipes making 35 stops on the night. Offensively, Laskosky, Kupka, and Johnson all had three-point outings for the Kodiaks.
Drayton Valley Thunder 0 – 2 Spruce Grove Saints
The depth scoring showed up for the Spruce Grove Saints last night as they went on to defeat the Drayton Valley Thunder 2-0 and gained a 1-0 series lead.
Alex Dalton opened up the scoring after a scoreless first period which saw Matthew Davis (University of Denver) and Luke Lush make a number of phenomenal stops. The Thunder were unfortunate to concede to the Dalton goal after a pass out in front deflected off Tanner Foster and got by Lush to open the scoring.
The Saints second goal had a little more skill to it with captain TJ Lloyd (Bowling Green State) skating towards the Thunder defence with speed before ripping a wrist by Lush making it 2-0.
Matthew Davis picked up his seventh shutout of the season (first career playoff shutout) as the Saints go on to gain a 1-0 series lead.
Grande Prairie Storm 4 – 2 Fort McMurray Oil Barons
Storm lead series 1-0
The Grande Prairie Storm got themselves out to a commanding 3-1 lead after the first 20 minutes of play on the road at the Casman Centre.
The Oil Barons action opened the scoring 48 seconds in from former Vancouver Giants defenceman Ty Ettinger for his first career AJHL goal. That lead only last six minutes after Storm captain Connor Blake tied the game up following a fantastic one-touch backdoor pass from Zachary Okabe (St Cloud State University). Xavier Pouliot and Zach Webb both added goals in the opening period too.
Whitecourt Wolverines 1 – 5 Bonnyville Pontiacs
Pontiacs lead series 1-0
Fans were stunned after 20 minutes at the RJ Lalonde Arena after Spencer Augot opened the scoring for the Whitecourt Wolverines in an unexpected fashion to give them a 1-0 lead. The Wolverines put the pressure on the Pontiacs right from the get-go and continued it through the first outshooting them 17 to 9.
However, whatever Head Coach Rick Swann said to his team in the locker room changed the outlook of the game in favour of the Pontiacs. Bonnyville overwhelmed Whitecourt offensively putting five goals by affiliate netminder Ryley Osland in the second period all.
The highlight of all the goals came from Daine Dubois who scored potentially the goal of the postseason on night one.
The Pontiacs also got scoring from Joel Ray, Cayden Krause, Grayson Constable (College of Holy Cross), and Isaac Saniga as they went on to take a 1-0 series lead after a 5-1 victory.