By Bernd Van't Klooster (@Berndthoughts)
Photo By Dave Watling
The Alberta Junior Hockey League’s marquee weekend didn’t go as planned for the Calgary Canucks. The AJHL Showcase brings out the best in teams, and the Canucks found that out the hard way when they faced off against two strong North division opponents. After picking up their first win of the year against the Olds Grizzlys a week prior, the Canucks found themselves in tough against the Sherwood Park Crusaders. The Crusaders managed a couple of first period tallies, but the Canucks answered back early in the second, thanks to a power play goal from Max Johnson. Sherwood Park continued to pile on the shots however, scoring 3 unanswered goals leading to Coach Daryl Olsen to switch goaltenders. Brett Balas took the reins, and after a couple of goals against in the 2nd, he shut the door in the 3rd period. Sadly, it wasn’t enough, and the Canucks would fall in the Showcase opener.
The Canucks would look to bounce back against the North Division leading Bonnyville Pontiacs. Coach Olsen tapped Brett Balas for the start, and the rookie had to face an early attack from the Pontiacs. After 4 goals in the first and a second mid-way through the 2nd, Bonnyville was content to protect their lead. It was a penalty filled game in Camrose, with Cancuks being sent to the box on 9 different occasions. Tyler Petrie would tally a goal in the 3rd, but it was too late to rally behind and the Canucks suffered their second set back of the weekend.
Though the games didn’t go exactly the way the Canucks had hoped, there were still positives to take away from the weekend. The Canucks officially added some of the young guns we’ve mentioned to the roster. Ethan Rowland, Brett Balas and Ryan Wallz have officially signed with the Canucks for the 2018/2019 season, while Brayden Paquette and Jaden Little are no longer with the team. Wallz and Rowland both had impressive weekends 2 weeks ago, while Balas performed admirably in a shootout loss to the Calgary Mustangs.
Things won’t get easier for the ‘Nucks, as they’ll spend the first 2 weeks of October on the road, starting Friday night in Fort McMurray for a match up with the Oil Barons. The Canucks will play 3 games in 3 nights, moving to Sherwood Park on Saturday and Spruce Grove on Sunday before coming home. It will be a tough test for this young Canucks group, but they are not a group to shy away. Though they haven’t been picking up the wins, each game they get a little more experienced and a lot more confident. I am still very optimistic about the Canucks. I believe in this young core, and again, the love for the game is clear. It’s in these moments that you find character guys. It would be easy for the Canucks to sit back, but they’re young guns always ready to compete and fight to the bitter end. There are no easy games in the AJHL, and the Canucks are a team that could surprise others.