Photo credit: Xander Holcomb, Blackfalds Bulldogs
A high-intensity, hard-fought series between the Blackfalds Bulldogs and Calgary Canucks played its second potential elimination game of the series on Friday night after Calgary managed to stay alive with a game-four win in overtime. The fans in Blackfalds watched on as the Bulldogs played in their first-ever game at the Eagle Builders Centre in which a win meant advancement in the AJHL playoffs.
The Bulldogs made good on an early first-period high-sticking penalty to Matt Corbet, scoring on the ensuing powerplay, with Tanner Willick firing a one-timer past Max Prazma to make it 1-0 early on. Matthew Hennessey kept the Bulldogs in front with numerous solid first-period saves, making ten in total, including helping the Bulldogs kill off three first-period Canuck powerplays. It was in the second period that Blackfalds’ Tyler Wallace took over, first, picking off a Matthew Strilets stretch pass after Strilets was impeded by a forechecking Kody Willick. Wallace moved into the space in the right circle of the Canuck zone and snapped his shot past Max Prazma’s blocker and in to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead. Wallace would strike again just over five minutes later, on a similar play to the last. This time, Jake Geraci forced a neutral-zone turnover with a body check, sending Otto Hanson back the other way. Hanson found Wallace coming off the bench, and Wallace again beat Prazma from the right circle, this time snapping it past his blocker to make it 3-0.
After back-to-back third-period Bulldogs penalties, Calgary pulled Prazma and managed to get a goal on the board on the six-on-three powerplay, with Cale Sanders scoring on a backdoor pass from Ty Hipkin to make it 3-1. Calgary pulled Prazma again short hereafter to try and score another, but Jason Siedem managed to spring Brendan Ross on the breakaway, with Ross icing the game into the empty net, making it 4-1. Blackfalds won the game by the same score they won the series, 4-1, with Tyler Wallace’s two game five goals taking him to a total of seven goals and ten points in the first round. Matthew Hennessey’s 26 saves on 27 shots earned him second-star honours, as well as his fourth win of the series. Hennessey now has not lost a game in regulation since February 11, earning his team at least a point one each of his last 11 starts. Blackfalds do not yet know their opponent in their first-ever second round, but as of now know the two teams it could be; if the Drumheller Dragons prevail over the Canmore Eagles, Drumheller will face Blackfalds in the second round. With the series currently sitting at 3-2 for the Dragons, that is looking like the more likely outcome, but if Canmore can come from behind to beat Drumheller themselves, Blackfalds will face the Okotoks Oilers in the second round, as Canmore would move on to a date with the Brooks Bandits. Whatever the case may be, the first game of round two goes Friday, March 24 at the Eagle Builders Centre in Blackfalds.