The Canmore Eagles have developed a familiar dance pattern this season – one step forward, two steps back.
Following their first road win of the season Saturday (Nov. 5) against the Calgary Canucks, the Eagles dropped a 5-2 decision to the Bonnyville Pontiacs Sunday (Nov. 6) at Alex Kaleta area.
Two periods of good hockey by the Eagles were wiped out by missed assignments and poor communication in the third period, as Pontiacs forwards owned the Eagles’ crease for the third period.
Nick Kosman opened scoring for the Eagles, who appeared dominant through the first 40 minutes of play thanks to a strong forecheck and clutch goaltending from Michael Salmon. He did, however, give up his first goal early in the second period when Bonnyville’s Tommy Barszcz knocked home a rebound on his third swing at a loose puck.
Luke Philp celebrated his 16th birthday with his third goal of the season. Philp threw the puck on net before it took a crazy bounce and snuck into the Bonnyville net, giving Canmore a 2-1 lead.
However, with 22 seconds left in the period, Bonnyville’s Ryan Kearns tied it at 2-2 when he was also allowed several whacks at the puck two feet from the goalline.
The goal proved to be a momentum changer, as Bonnyville received three powerplays and stormed the Canmore zone in the third period, scoring three unanswered goals. Barszcz proved to be the offensive catalyst, scoring the go ahead goal and assisting on the insurance marker.
Kurtis Jones, who will continue to fill in for head coach Andrew Milne for another week, did not speak to the media after the game, however scout/assistant coach Jason Rycroft said the team deserved a different fate.
“The boys were a little tired and kind of gave up at the end, but those things happen,” Rycroft said. “Good teams find ways to win, bad teams find ways to lose and we’re finding ways to lose right now.”
He believes the Eagles match up well against the 16-5 Pontiacs, one of the best teams in the Northern Division, noting they could easily have two wins against the club.
“We’ve outplayed them four of the six periods and they have two wins,” Rycroft said. “Overall, I think we had a six minute collapse and that cost us.”
Salmon was spectacular through much of the game for the Eagles, but was left hanging out to dry on three of the Pontiacs goals.
“It seems like all their goals were right in front of our net. If we make a couple of adjustments, we’re in that game,” Salmon said. “We’re just not getting the bounces that we need.”
The Pontiacs have a lot of experience in their lineup, something the Eagles lack. That cost them in the scoring department
“Our rookies are good players, but most of the teams at this level win with their older guys. Sometimes it looks like we have a midget hockey club out there,” Rycroft said.
One of those young players, Luke Philp, is doing his part to contribute to the offence. The rookie centre is scoring at a point per game pace in his first 12 games at the junior A level after getting cut from the WHL Kootenay Ice roster early in the season.
“The first couple of games were different. It’s definitely easier now playing with the guys,” said Philp, who added he’s had to make an adjustment “It wasn’t the speed, but the size and strength of the guys. I have to use more skill. I’m not going to be stronger than these 20-year-old guys.”
The young team was without several key players, including Steven Phee, Luke Simpson, Mark Eremenko, Connor Hoekstra, Trey Phillips and Jeremy Gordon. That cast younger players into bigger roles, something captain Davis Claffey fully expects them to do.
“There are a lot of guys getting more ice time than usual and at this point, they have to step up. We need them,” Claffey said. The Eagles’ 4-18 record is weighing upon the captain, who has had enough of costly mistakes plaguing the team.
“It’s so frustrating. You try and be consistent, but there are too many guys fluctuating (with their play) and that’s costing us games,” Claffey said.
In other Eagles news, newly acquired forward Stefan Bazar requested a trade after playing two games with the Eagles. Canmore granted his wish, shipping him to Prince George of the BCHL for future considerations. Bazar acquired from Sherwood Park for Dalton Olsen.
The Eagles host the Camrose Kodiaks on Friday (Nov. 11) and the Sherwood Park Crusaders on Nov. 12.