Written by Coach Curran
The AJHL Showcase weekend was once again held in Camrose, and the Dragons faced Drayton Valley in the first game of the event on Thursday afternoon. The Showcase is a 4-day event where all 16 teams in the league come to one place to play two regular season games. It’s a chance for dozens of scouts from all over North America to get a look at all the players in the league. Needless to say, the Showcase can be a very nervous time for players who aspire to get noticed by colleges or professional teams.
The Dragons opened our weekend with a win against Drayton Valley in a shootout with rookie defenseman Troy Dudley scoring the shootout winner to take the game 3-2. Other scorers for the Dragons were rookie forward Leif Mattson and rookie defenseman Blake Kleiner.
Although goaltender Hunter Virostek played a very solid game, as a team we looked pretty flat in this game. You could tell the players put a lot of pressure on themselves and had a lot of nerves. It was evident that our players were caught up in the hype of the Showcase. We had a few great efforts from some players, but at the end of the day we got the win and I knew our next game had to be better.
The Dragons next test would be with the tough Fort McMurray Oil Barons who have had a great start to their season and just came off a victory against the Brooks Bandits. The Oil Barons are ranked highly in the Canadian Junior Hockey League and looked like a team in the North Division that will surprise a lot of clubs.
The Dragons from the warm up to the start of the game looked much better and started off the game with rookie forward Brady Risk getting his first goal of the season. The first period ended with the Dragons up 1-0 but the Oil Barons came back to take a 3-1 lead going into the second intermission. In the third period, the Dragons came out strong and, with exceptional goaltending by Dane Dow, took the lead 4-3 late in the period on goals by Chad Hurtubise, Nate Keeley and Stefan Wood. However, the Oil Barons tied it up before time expired with their third power play goal of the game, sending the game to overtime where there was no scoring. In the shootout, the Oil Barons took the win 5-4 when Will Conley was the only one to score.
Overall, this game was a much better performance than the first game and I was very proud to see the boys stick together and come back in the third period and almost pull this one out against a very good team. I hope the players are starting to understand that although we have a lot of youth, we are very capable of playing against anyone when we compete, battle, and play together as a team. We do that and we will only continue to get better and build trust and believe in one another.
The Dragons organization and staff would like to thank the AJHL, the Kodiaks and their staff, the volunteers, and the community for putting on a great Showcase.
Photo of Troy Dudley by Andrew Beattie