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Olds Upset over Canmore Highlights First Round of AJHL Playoffs

By Neil Hilts on March 17, 2017

Thirty-seven points separated the No. 2 Canmore Eagles and seventh seed Olds Grizzlys in the Viterra South Division standings.

The Eagles had the third-best offence and the league’s top two scorers, plus scored 83 more goals than the Grizzlys. Ahead of the matchup, it was looking like a David versus Goliath matchup.

Yet Olds found a way to suppress Canmore in every game, winning 4-3 and 3-2 in mountains before claiming the series and sweep in game three with a 4-3 overtime win in Olds.

Logan Ferguson (5 points) and Matt Forchuk (4 points) each averaged more than a point per game for the Eagles, but goaltending was the deciding factor. Canmore had more than 50 shots in every game, while Olds only surpassed 30 once. Ben Giesbrecht posted an outstanding .952 save percentage in the three wins.

The reward for Olds moving on? A matchup with the league champion Brooks Bandits, who went 51-5-4 and had one of the most dominant campaigns in recent memory. The best-of-seven kicks off on St. Patrick’s Day in Brooks.

Elsewhere in the postseason, there was another huge upset, as the third seed Calgary Canucks just snuck past the No. 6 Drumheller Dragons in Game 5 with a 5-2 win. Drumheller was up 2-1 in the series and had two chances to win, but the Canucks showed great resiliency, winning 1-0 in Game 4 in enemy territory. Jordan McConnell’s hat trick in the deciding game pushed the Canucks to round two.

Okotoks was the lone south team to sweep their matchup, giving them a few more days off from the rest. Playing the fifth seed Camrose Kodiaks, Okotoks won the first game 3-2 in overtime, then allowed just a single goal in games two and three to bring out the broom. Riley Morris won all three starts with a remarkable .950 save percentage.

The Canucks and Oilers will begin the second round on Friday. The big storyline here is James Poole, former Oilers coach, leading the Canucks against his former team. He’ll be looking to get some revenge after leaving town on less than ideal terms.

Up north, the top ranked teams in each matchup won, including a pair of sweeps.

The Whitecourt Wolverines, who missed out on the No. 1 seed on the final day of the season when they lost to Fort McMurray, swept Grand Prairie in three straight, winning 6-0, 3-2 in overtime, and 6-1. Joseph Nardi (8 points), Justin Young (7 points) and Liam Motley (7 points) were uber productive and will look to carry the momentum against Spruce Grove. Pierce Diamond won all three starts and sported a 0.96 GAA.

After falling in Game 1, Bonnyville rattled off three straight wins to best the Sherwood Park Crusaders, earning them a berth in the division semifinal. Ryan Piche had eight points and five goals to lead all scorers in the playoffs. Pontiacs goaltender Sandro Silvestre, started all four games but only had a .893 save percentage, something he’ll have to improve on.

Spruce Grove had a strong series against Drayton Valley, allowing just a single goal in the first two games before winning the third game 3-2 in overtime. Josh Harris had six points in the series to lead the Saints, while goalie Nolan Kent was 2-0 with a 0.59 GAA and .972 save percentage, allowing just one goal in 36 shots against.

Fort McMurray and Bonnyville begin play Saturday the 18th, while Whitecourt and Spruce Grove renew acquaintances St. Patrick’s Day.

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By Neil Hilts| March 17, 2017
Categories:  Junior

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