CANMORE – The puck is about to drop on the 2021-22 Canmore Eagles season.
After a week-long training camp and three exhibition games, the team is ready to return to the ice following a shortened 2020-21 season due to COVID-19.
“We’re excited. It’s been a while since we’ve been back in the building and moving forward with hockey,” said Andrew Milne, general manager and head coach of the Canmore Eagles. “It’s hockey time and everyone is excited to get going.”
The Eagles opened up its three-game exhibition schedule with back-to-back home games against the Whitecourt Wolverines. Canmore lost 4-3 on Monday (Sept. 6) and the following afternoon goaltender Andrei Proctor-Ramirez posted a 35-save shutout, leading the Eagles to a 4-0 victory.
Last Friday (Sept. 10), the Eagles travelled to Olds to face the Grizzlys, losing 7-3.
Over the past two weeks, Milne has trimmed down the roster to just 25 players, 14 of who are rookies. Following the shortened season last year each of the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s (AJHL) 16 teams will feature rookie-laden rosters. While the Eagles’ roster does feature a large number of rookies, many of them are 19 years old after missing last season.
“I think it will be a while for everyone to get on the same page and back to where we need to be in terms of the game play and technical stuff.”
A more pressing matter facing the team is the eight 2001-born players on the roster, including Tye Carriere, Devin Chapman, Zach Cunningham, Drae Gardiner, Kale Lyons, Lane Paddison, Ethan Schaeffer and Mitchell Watson. Under AJHL rules, only six 20-year-old players are able to dress for a game.
Milne said Carriere has still not been cleared medically to play as he is still recovering from off season injuries, and a timeline for his return has not yet been established.
The Eagles’ bench boss is excited about the experience on the backend, including three 20-year-old blueliners in Cunningham, Lyons and Gardiner, and the experienced goaltenders Chapman and Proctor-Ramirez.
“I think our veteran defensive core is going to be exciting. They are all quite capable and with two veteran goaltenders. Our backend is looking strong. We may struggle to score goals early, but we will sort that out.”
Also cracking the roster is a trio of Bow Valley locals Nathan Ellis and Maguire Smyth from Canmore and Max Monette from Banff.
“He’s a Banff Academy kid – I wouldn’t say we’re surprised by him because we know what he is capable of, but our coaching staff really like his game so far. He’s a good skater, has the ability to play physically, he’s got a great shot – there are a bunch of positives in his game,” said Milne.
The Eagles’ roster also includes two players currently at major junior training camps, with Ethan Neutens with the Kelowna Rockets and Nathan Pillling with the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Last season, Milne was handed a 15-game suspension and fined $1,000 by the AJHL for speaking openly to the media about a COVID-19 outbreak that affected the Eagles. While Milne serves the suspension, the head coaching duties will be divvied up between Bryan Arneson, Mike Glawson, and Kyle McLaughlin.
Arneson, a former Eagle between 2012-14, is the newest addition to the team’s full-time coaching staff. He’ll be the consistent figure on the bench for the first 15 games.
Glawson, a former head scout of the Eagles, has spent the past four seasons scouting talent for the club and is the head coach of the U18AAA Calgary Flames; and McLaughlin, a AA coach and skills development trainer, served on the coaching staff during the Eagles’ brief 2020-21 season.
The puck drops for the regular season on Friday (Sept. 17) when Canmore takes on the Olds Grizzlys in an away game. On Sept. 18, the Eagles face off against the Calgary Canucks in the home opener at 7 p.m.