By Bernd Van't Klooster (@Berndthoughts)
Photo By Erin Linn
It was another solid couple of weeks of development for the Calgary Canucks. After wrapping up their road trip, the Canucks played on Ken Bracko ice for the first time in over 3 weeks. While speaking with Head Coach Darryl Olsen prior to the game, he mentioned that they we’re glad to be home after a grueling couple of weeks. The ‘Nucks picked up but one win on the road trip, but the bench boss was more concerned about the play on the ice rather than the results. Olsen spoke highly of young forwards Ryan Wallz and Cameron Pollock-Hughes, who have quickly made their way up the Canucks depth charts. Seeing young players like those two, and many more, develop at a high rate of speed gives the team confidence.
The Canucks played with a different bite to them on Saturday night, the energy was there. After a rough Friday night vs the Okotoks Oilers, and losing a top 4 defenseman in Max Struss due to suspension, they were in tough against one of the North’s better teams, the Grande Prairie Storm. The Storm marched out of the gate to a 2-nothing lead, but Tyler Petrie lit a spark in the home side after notching a goal with just 7 seconds left in the period. The Canucks dominated possession in the second half of the game, you could see the confidence start to shine on the ice. Storm net minder Lars Kaliel was phenomenal in the game, making not one, not two, but three game-saving saves in the second half. The Canucks would fall 5-4 but in this broadcaster’s opinion, we’re unlucky not to win. I felt they deserved a better fate, and that they played well enough to win.
Tuesday night was a tough task for the Canucks, hosting the North Division leading Bonnyville Pontiacs. The Pontiacs would run out to an early 2-0 lead courtesy of a couple power play goals, and continue to add to that as the game wore on. Captain Cooper Johnson netted a goal late in the second to cut the lead to 4-1 before the intermission. Brett Balas played admirably in his first start at the Ken Bracko, confirming the Canucks depth in the crease. Mental lapses and timely conversions by the Pontiacs would eventually be the Canucks downfall though. The Canucks allowed 40 plus shots, and the Pontiacs showed their dominance and why they are a top team in the AJHL.
All in all, it was a good little stretch for the Calgary Canucks. The team is young, lets not forget that. Debuts from Grotzky and Ben Zloty confirms that as well, but Coach Olsen has no fear sending young APs over the boards. You have to love that from the Head Coach. He’s all in on the rebuild, and needs to know what he has. I love the pace and skill the Canucks play with, minus the mental lapses and mistakes made, they have a lot of potential. Those mistakes will become less and less as the season goes on, and these players are only going to get better. With each game new lessons are learned, and new players emerge. Led by Cooper Johnson, I believe the Canucks have the right pieces but more importantly, the right mentality to be successful.