From the Booth: November 1- November 19

By Bernd Van't Klooster (@Berndthoughts)
Photo By Erin Linn

The Calgary Canucks are approaching the mid-way point of the Alberta Junior Hockey League schedule, and their road back to glory continues to be a grind. The week started with a tough South Division road trip taking them up, and down the QE2. The Olds Grizzlys are in a similar position as the Canucks, battling with the green and blue for the last playoff spot in the south. Brett Balas got the nod against the Grizz, looking to bounce back after a setback just a week earlier. It was a spirited affair, but one the Canucks were on the wrong side of. Cameron Pollock-Hughes picked up game star honours for the Canucks. Next stop on the trip, Brooks. The Bandits are the top-ranked team in Canada, but the Canucks gave them a game on a rocking Saturday night. Blake Pilon stopped 38 shots, but the high-flying Bandits robbed the Canucks of 2 points. The Canucks played a strong game, however, including a 2-1 lead at the first intermission but the Bandits came back with their high-powered offence. 

Remembrance Day Long weekend was spent in Calgary, kicked off by the Battle of YYC. The Mustangs came across town for the first time this season, joined by students from Sarah Thompson School. The kids helped make the atmosphere electric in the Ken Bracko Arena, and that translated to the ice. Anyone who watched that night could tell it was a rivalry game. There was a desperation in this game and you could tell both sides wanted to win. The Mustangs peppered Brett Balas with 43 shots and would come away with the win but it was a positive night both on and off the ice for the Canucks. Things wouldn’t get easier though, with the Drumheller Dragons in town the next night. It was the first meeting of the year after the Dragons bested the Canucks in the first round of the 2018 AJHL playoffs. The Dragons brought a veteran squad to the Ken Bracko, led by 3rdyear starter Hunter Virostek between the pipes. Across from him stood Blake Pilon, and it was a real tight game. The Dragons began with a 2-0 lead, but the Canucks tied things up to start the 3rdcourtesy of call-up Austin O’Bray from the Heritage Junior Hockey League. The Dragons doubled up the Canucks however, but not without a fight. It was one of the most intense battles of the year riddled with ample special teams’ opportunities.

This last weekend was one the Canucks would rather forget, with back to back road setbacks to groups contending for the south division lead in Okotoks and Canmore. Now the Canucks can focus on a mini homestand, 3 straight games at the Ken Bracko staring Tuesday night against the Oilers. The ‘Nucks will also welcome the Kodiaks and Grizzlys on this homestand. The rebuild has tested this team exactly as head coach Darryl Olsen thought it would, revealing each player’s character and work ethic. The professionalism on the team has been positive since day one, no one will argue the teams compete level from night to night. Cooper Johnson continues to lead with his selfless play on the ice, as well as statistically with 16 points on the season. Defenseman Adamu Tanka has really hit his stride in Canucks silks, starting to make plays he did in Canmore for nearly 4 years. His offensive mind helps the transition game, resulting in a fast and heavy fore-check. With the injury bug on the way out, the team might finally have some time to play as a complete roster again. The Canucks have a heavy home schedule coming up, so be sure to get out to the Ken Bracko Arena and support Calgary’s team!