The first round of playoffs started on Thursday, March 9 as the Canucks hosted the Drumheller Dragons in Game 1. Things kicked off in the right direction in the first period as #13 Zach McNeill capitalized on a power play opportunity with help from #9 Ben Assad and #27 Jordan McConnell to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead. Less than 2 minutes later the Dragons tied it up with a goal by #10 Tyler Kreklewich. After 20 minutes of play things remained tied at 1, with shots on net favouring the Dragons 16-12.
In the second things were fairly even across the ice with the Canucks putting 7 shots on net and the Dragons getting 8. However with the period coming to an end neither team was able to put one in the net to break the tie, it was still 1-1.
Things took a turn in the third as the Dragons picked up three goals. The first came on the power play by #18 Joren Patenaude. Mid-way through the period #39 Chad Hurtubise made it 3-1 with his first goal of the night. At 13:37 #39 Chad Hurtubise got his second of the night to make it 4-1 Dragons. The Canucks made a final push scoring with 12 seconds left in the period to make it 4-2. The goal came courtesy of #9 Ben Assad assisted by #13 Zach McNeill. The Final score was 4-2 Dragons with shots on net being 39-33 for the Canucks.
After falling to the Dragons in game one the Canucks were looking to rebound and tie up the series in game 2. The Dragons were quick on the board as #39 Chad Hurtubise scored a power play goal just 44 seconds into the first period. The Canucks weren’t backing down as #8 Dylan Williamson put one in the back of the net to even things up. Assists on the goal went to #5 Coby Mack and #16 Brayden Brown. At 13:07 of the first #21 Kyler Magus scored to give the Canucks their first lead of the series with help from #18 Matt Painchaud and #9 Ben Assad. At the end of the first the Canucks were leading across the board holding onto a 2-1 lead and out shooting the Dragons 17-6.
Early in the second #13 Zach McNeill extended the Canucks lead after a set up from #7 Josh Gagne and #22 Josh Giacomin. After a fairly even period the Canucks came away with a 3-1 lead, both teams recorded 12 shots on net.
In the third the Dragons, looking to even things up, came within one with a goal from #25 Jordan Evans at 3:06. The Canucks responded quickly as #5 Coby Mack shot one past the Dragons goaltender on the power play to make it 4-2 Canucks. Fending off the Dragons for the rest of the third the Canucks came away with the win. Final shots wee 39-31 in favour of the Canucks.
With the series tied the Canucks travelled out to Drumheller for Game 3. Unfortunately things didn’t start out the way the Canucks would have liked. At 1:53 of the first #6 Blake Kleiner scored the first goal for the Dragons to give them an early lead. #21 Nate Keeley made it 2-1 for the Dragons less than 5 minutes later. Not finished for the period the Dragons scored their third goal of the night midway through the period courtesy of #37 Markus Boguslavsky. The period came to a close with both teams having 12 shots on net; however the Dragons were leading 3-0.
Looking to get back on track the Canucks were looking to edge away at the Dragons lead. #16 Brayden Brown took advantage of the power play to give the Canucks their first goal of the night just 2:23 into the second. Assists on the goal went to #13 Zach McNeill and #28 Brett Van Os. After 40 minutes of play the score was 3-1 Dragons, shots on net were 22-17 in favour of the Dragons.
The Canucks aimed to put on the pressure in the third in order to tie up the game. The Canucks controlled most of the play in the third as they outshot the Dragons 10-5 in the period. With only a few minutes left in the period the Canucks pulled their goaltender for the extra attacker. The Canucks were rewarded as #13 Zach McNeill put one in the net with just 19 seconds remaining in the period to bring the Canucks within 1 goal. However time expired before the Canucks were able to complete the comeback. Final score was 3-2 Dragons, Shots were tied 27 apiece.
With everything on the line in game 4 the Canucks had one mission – to extend the series to game 5. The Canucks put on the pressure as soon as the puck hit the ice determined to get the outcome they were looking for. With incredible play across the ice neither team was able to get one past the goaltenders to take the lead. Shots at the end of the period were 7-4 for the Canucks.
In the second both teams hit the ice with the same intensity as they did in the first. Much like the first period both goaltenders were stopping everything coming their way. With neither team able to put one on the board the score remained tied 0-0 after the second. Shots in the period were 10 for the Canucks and 6 for the Dragons.
With the third underway #5 Coby Mack put the Canucks on the board taking advantage of an early power play opportunity, with help from #22 Josh Giacomin and #13 Zach McNeill. With the lead the Canucks battled hard for the remainder of the period to fend off the Dragons. In the final minutes of the period the Dragons pulled their goaltender for the extra attacker. With the extra pressure up front for the Dragons the Canucks stepped up their game to prevent the Dragons from tying up the game, and came away with a much needed win.
With the series once again tied, game 5 would be back at Max Bell and the Canucks were looking to eliminate the Dragons to advance to round 2. With the first period well under way the Canucks were able to strike first as #27 Jordan McConnell knocked one past the Dragons goaltender with help from #19 Parker Ward and #7 Josh Gagne. With lots of action across the ice the first period saw the Dragons getting 17 shots on net while the Canucks got 14. After 20 minutes of play the Canucks were able to hold onto their 1-0 lead.
Looking to extend their lead the Canucks hit the ice for the second period. Early in the period #5 Coby Mack showed off his skills putting one in the back of the net to make it 2-0 for the Canucks. Before the period ended the Dragons got their first of the night with a power play goal by #24 Cody Young. At the end of the period the Canucks were leading 2-1 with shots on net being 34-27 in favour of the Dragons.
To start the third, #27 Jordan McConnell got his second goal of the game at 3:54 with help from #7 Josh Gagne. The Dragons responded getting a goal of their own from #10 Tyler Krekleich to make it 3-2. The Canucks weren’t going to sit back, as #27 Jordan McConnell scored once again for the hat trick to extend the Canucks lead to 4-2. Assists on the goal went to #14 Michael Johnson and #10 Sage Englund. With limited time remaining in the period the Dragons pulled their goaltender for the extra attacker. #8 Dylan Williamson took advantage of the empty net to solidify the Canucks lead. With time running out the Canucks won by a score of 5-2 to take the series and move on to the second round of the AJHL Gas Drive Playoffs to face the Okotoks Oilers.