By Bernd Van't Klooster (@Berndthoughts)
Photo By Dave Watling
The Calgary Canucks rebuild continued over the past 2 weeks. After consecutive home games, the Canucks went on a 3-day road trip that covered over 1300 kilometres and had the young squad spending over 16 hours on the bus. First stop was Grande Prairie and a Friday night tilt with the Storm. Blake Pilon got the nod, as he has for most games this season, but the Storm brought a flurry of action towards him. Lead by a 2 goal performance by one of the AJHL’s best, Zachary Okabe, the Storm would go on to take the second half of a semi-home and home series with a 4-0 result. 24 hours later the Canucks found themselves in Whitecourt to battle the Wolverines.
Head Coach Darryl Olsen turned to Pilon again in the back to back situation. While the Canucks have done well in recent weeks to lower their shots against, a couple lapses in the defensive end can lead to goals against a veteran line up. Scott McKenzie picked up the lone Canucks goal in the game, and Ryan Wallz collected the team’s star of the game, but the Canucks would face another setback against the Wolverines. The Canucks played their final game of the 3-day road trip on Sunday afternoon in Drayton Valley. Coach Olsen turned to Brett Balas to step between the pipes against the Thunder. The Thunder have struggled to gain traction in a tough AJHL North Division, and this proved to be the Canucks best game of the trip in the eyes of the Head Coach. Balas would stop 35 shots, and the Nucks added goals from Nic Herringer and Cameron Pollock-Hughes. Veteran AJHL starter Luke Lush made 32 saves of his own including some game-saving ones and led the Thunder to a 4-2 win.
Returning home this past weekend, the Canucks eyed a bounce-back game against the Olds Grizzlies on Saturday night. The Grizzlys came into this game with zero wins in their first 16 games, while the Canucks were looking to gain steam after a good game in Drayton Valley. Brett Balas started once again for the Canucks, looking to build off his last performance. The Grizz started hot, nabbing 2 goals in the first 10 minutes before Chase Wheatcroft, a call-up from the Calgary Royals would cut the lead to 2-1 going into the intermission. Michael Johnson tied the game early in the second, and captain Cooper Johnson added a tally on the power play which put the Canucks in control. Under 2 minutes later the Canucks found themselves on the power play again, but this time the Grizz took a quick rush up ice the other way and tied the game with a shorthanded goal. The third wouldn’t go the Canucks way, the Grizz added 3 quick goals and despite goals from Cooper Johnson and Adamu Tanaka to move the Canucks within one, they would be unable to complete the comeback. Balas stopped 24 of 30 shots in the 6-5 result.
Things didn’t get easier on Tuesday night either, with the Camrose Kodiaks coming to town. AJHL veteran Griffin Bowerman got the start for the bears, with Coach Olsen turning to Blake Pilon as he often has this season. The Kodiaks were slow starters last season before marching into the playoffs during the second half of the 2017-2018 AJHL season, but they didn’t start slow last night. The Kodiaks had a 3-0 lead early, and wouldn’t look back.
In terms of the rebuild, things are advancing nicely. The goaltending had stumbled in the recent games, Coach Olsen admitted prior to the Kodiaks game, but he is still happy with the "level of compete" in the two young tenders. The only thing the Canucks can control is their work ethic, and on a game by game basis, the effort is clearly there. The group doesn’t quit, and always put up a stink. Players like Ethan Rowland, Cameron Pollock Hughes, Cooper Johnson and Max Struss play with serious grit every time they touch the ice. These Canucks may not be winning games, but it’s not easy to play this team. The Canucks are also going to get some help soon, with Alex Heal set to start skating again this week. Kaiden Collumb and Jackson Zolty are both still expected to miss some time but are making progress. The Canucks make their way up to Olds for a Friday night rematch with the Grizzlys. This is a big game for the Canucks, as the Grizz pose the Canucks' only threat at the playoffs. For live broadcasts of every Canucks home game, visit www.myhockeytv.com.
In terms of the rebuild, things are advancing nicely. The goaltending had stumbled in the recent games as Coach Olsen admitted prior to the Koidaks game, but he is still happy with the compete level of the 2 young tenders. The only thing the Canucks can control is their work ethic, and on a game by game basis the effort is clearly there. The group doesn’t quit, and always put up a stink. Players like Ethan Rowland, Cameron Pollock Hughes, Cooper Johnson and Max Struss play with serious grit every time they touch the ice. These Canucks may not be winning games, but it’s not easy to play this team. The Canucks are also going to get some help soon, with Alex Heal set to start skating again this week. Kaiden Collumb and Jackson Zolty are both still expected to miss some time, but are making progress. The Canucks make their way up to Olds for a Friday night re match with the Grizzlys. This is a big game for the Canucks, and the Grizz pose the Canucks only threat at the playoffs. For live broadcasts of every Canucks home game, visit www.myhockeytv.com.
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