Olds Grizzlys win two of three over Canucks in AJHL exhibition series
By George Potter, Contributor
On Oct. 9, the Calgary Canucks had their first game on home ice since last season was cancelled due to COVID-19. People were allowed to attend this first game, however, due to strict policies, they could only allow 100 attendees. Despite the impact of this “new normal,” the Canucks and the Grizzlys kept the score close throughout the series.
The Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) announced on Oct. 2 that games for the 2020-21 season will resume during the trying times of COVID-19. The announcement stated they will start the season by playing an exhibition series from Oct. 9 to Oct. 24 between teams that are restricted to playing only each other multiple times.
The series included:
– Calgary Canucks vs Olds Grizzlys
– Brooks Bandits vs Okotoks Oilers
– Drumheller Dragons vs Camrose Kodiaks
– Whitecourt Wolverines vs Grand Prairie Storm
– Bonnyville Pontiacs vs Fort McMurray Oil Barons
-Sherwood Park Crusaders vs Lloydminster Bobcats
– Drayton Valley Thunder vs Spruce Grove Saints
The only team that will not play any exhibition games is the Canmore Eagles.
The series started off with the Calgary Canucks playing against the Olds Grizzlys at the Max Bell Arena. Attendance was allowed, but the 100-person crowd had to follow rigid protocols. Masks were mandatory and social distancing was strict. If the rules were not obeyed by the spectators, they would have been asked to leave the arena.
The veteran players had their names on their backs while the new players did not. For most of these new players, it was their first game in the Junior A Hockey League or they were making their debut in a Canucks uniform.
Some of the new players included forward Brett Moravec, a University of Wisconsin Commit who previously played for the Okotoks Oilers. In addition, goaltender Adam Dymterko was picked up from the Battleford North Stars of the neighbouring Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) during the summer.
After puck drop, the action started off with intensity on both sides of the ice. The Grizzlys had good chances but were defended by Canucks’ defenseman and Captain Colin MacPherson and rookie Parker Jorginson.
Two minutes into the period, forward Moravec scored his first goal in a Canucks uniform. The Canucks’ first goal of the season was assisted by forward Dylan Clark and defenseman Joseph Grotsky. The rest of the period had multiple shots on both ends being denied by Canucks and Grizzlys’ goaltenders Dmyterko and Tristan Martin.
In the first minutes of the second period, the Grizzlys answered back, as forward Noah Hackett scored to tie the game. He was assisted by forwards Trenton Curtis and Tristan Baumung. The rest of the second period remained tied until the very end due to the performance of goaltending and defense.
The third period ended up getting very rough — three game misconduct penalties were handed out in this period. Grizzlys’ Kieren Raymond and Canucks’ forward Max Mazur were two of the recipients of the misconducts, which resulted in both players being ejected from the game. However, this still did not stop the Canucks, as Clark scored on a breakaway making the game 2-1. The Canucks had an attempt to score on the empty net but were unable to get it past the crease.
The star of the game was Canucks’ goaltender Dmyterko, who ended up with 32 saves with 33 shots taken. Also, Olds Grizzlys’ goaltender Martin made 24 saves on 26 shots.
Calgary Canucks’ head coach Brad Moran says that Dmyterko’s performance was what the team was looking for to step up and make big saves.
“We wanted someone back there who would really settle things down and give the guys confidence, and that is what we thought we were getting from him. Watching tonight I think that is exactly what he is,” said Moran
In the second game of the series on Oct. 10 at the Olds & District Sports Complex, the Canucks lost in sudden death overtime 2-1 before the Thanksgiving holiday.
The third game of the exhibition was on Oct. 14 back at the Max Bell Arena. The action was very intense on both sides of the ice once again, as both teams battled for possession of the puck.
The Canucks were first to score. The goal was scored on the powerplay by forward Blake Setter and was assisted by forwards Clark and Moravec. The game remained 1-0 until the end of the first period.
The second period witnessed the most goals scored in the game, starting off with the Grizzlys tying up the game 1-1. The goal was scored by defenseman Raymond and was assisted by forwards Dawson Leroux and Brandon Rude. The Canucks responded a minute later with Clark giving the Canucks a 2-1 lead. The Grizzlys would tie up the game once again in the period after a goal by forward Malik Kaddoura who was assisted by Curtis and Hackett.
Similar to the first game, the third period got very rough. A mass brawl broke out on the ice after a big hit. The fight resulted in multiple Olds’ penalties, giving the Canucks a good chance on the power play. However, the Grizzlys were able to keep the game tied and kill off the penalties during the Canucks’ power play.
The third period remained scoreless, therefore the game would head into a sudden-death overtime. Within the first seconds of overtime, the Olds Grizzlys scored, winning the game on a powerplay goal by Curtis, assisted by forward Hackett and Hoon Kim.
The two stars of the game went to Canucks’ Clark and to Grizzlys’ forward Curtis. Both players scored two points during the game.
Canucks’ head coach Moran said that despite putting in good energy, there is still more to improve on for the next couple of games — especially during a penalty kill situation that cost Calgary the game.
“We need to know what we’re doing. But at the same time, we haven’t put in a ton of practice on a four on three penalty kill and we just got mixed up on a rotation and it gives a guy an easy goal,” he said.
The Canucks and Grizzlys’ series concluded on Oct. 21 at the Olds Sportsplex. The rest of the season will be dependent on the expansion of cohorts and increase in facility capacity limits as determined by the Government of Alberta.