Photo credit: Xander Holcomb, Blackfalds Bulldogs
The Blackfalds Bulldogs and Calgary Canucks’ game four had major stakes for both teams; for Blackfalds, a victory sends them to round two of the AJHL playoffs, and for Calgary, the fourth game needed to result in a victory to have any hope of a first-round comeback.
The first period started with Calgary looking like a team who knew they were fighting for their lives, coming out of the gate strong and finishing the first period with a 15-8 margin in shots. Despite that, Blackfalds were able to score the first period’s only goal, with Kody Willick setting up Kasey Hiemstra on a two-on-one with Hiemstra forcing his shot through Max Prazma and in to make it a 1-0 game.
Blackfalds’ defences were breached early in the second, with Matthew Hennessey’s first save on a Canuck attack allowing Zephyr LaPlante to follow up the play and poke a rebond behind him and in to make it a 1-1 game. Blackfalds’ penalty kill was heavily leaned on in the second period, having to kill off 14 minutes in penalties in the second, including successfully getting through a two-minute five-on-three.
The slew of penalty minutes assessed the Bulldogs’ way continued into the third period, with a total of 19 minutes in penalties assessed the Bulldogs’ way in the third. Blackfalds managed to get through many of them, but after Kasey Hiemstra was assessed a major and game misconduct for a phantom cross-check, Calgary’s powerplay finally broke through, with captain Justin Barker able to force a rebound on the doorstep through Matthew Hennessey’s legs to give Calgary a 2-1 lead with just over five minutes to go. Blackfalds, however, pushed back, and with Hennessey pulled, Brett Meerman took a pass from Tanner Willick at the top of the right circle and flung his shot toward the goal, beating max Prazma through the legs to make it 2-2.
Blackfalds came out flying in overtime, generating half a dozen chances in the first 90 seconds, but it was the Calgary Canucks that would push back and score. Daxton Budd’s pass from behind the Bulldogs’ net eluded everyone in front on its way to Connor Frost at the blue line. Frost’s shot beat a screened Matthew Hennessey up high, giving the Canucks their first win of the playoffs and snapping their eight-game losing streak to the Bulldogs. Game five goes Friday night, with Calgary playing to force the series back to Calgary for game six, and Blackfalds playing to advance to the second round of the AJHL playoffs.