Photo credit: Xander Holcomb, Blackfalds Bulldogs
The Blackfalds Bulldogs looked to follow up a disappointing Friday night loss against the Drayton Valley Thunder when they took on the Grande Prairie Storm Saturday night for the second and final time this season. The Storm came into this game having won their previous game by a 4-3 scoreline over the Camrose Kodiaks, while Blackfalds came in having earned nine of a possible 12 points in the month of December.
It was clear from the drop of the puck what the game’s main battle would be; The Blackfalds Bulldogs against Grande Prairie goaltender Connor Mackenzie. Mackenzie came in boasting a .930 save percentage and twelve games to date in which he made 40 or more saves. Blackfalds outshot Grande Prairie 15-4 in the first period, but it was Storm forward Ayden Peters who scored the only goal of not just the first but the first two periods of play. Through forty minutes, Mackenzie had made 25 saves on the 25 shots he’d faced, and Peters’ first-period goal stood as the only one until nearly the halfway point of the third.
By the eight-minute mark of the third period, Blackfalds had thrown everything at Connor Mackenzie, failing to score on numerous chances including four unsuccessful powerplay opportunities. Despite Grande Prairie’s chances being few and far between, Matthew Hennessey had to stay sharp when called upon and made some huge saves down the stretch to keep it a one-goal game. Eventually, Blackfalds would break through, with Jason Siedem finding the puck in the slot and quickly snapping a wrist shot over Mackenzie’s glove to make it 1-1. Blackfalds would continue to pour on the pressure, finishing the third period with a 40-19 edge in shots on goal. Late in the third period, the Storm took a hooking penalty that carried over into overtime. Going into that man advantage, Blackfalds had been experiencing a negative streak, having failed to score on 21 straight powerplay opportunities. Likewise, Blackfalds’ captain Brett Meerman had been on a skid of his own, having gone five straight games without a goal, only notching two assists in that span. Meerman and the powerplay itself would snap the slumps at the beginning of overtime. A cross-ice pass from Meerman found Tyler Wallace, who barely missed the net wide, leading to Jayden Joly finding Meerman in a good spot. Meerman beat Mackenzie, giving him his eighteenth goal of the season, and Blackfalds’ second straight win against the Storm on the year.
Blackfalds improves to 19-13-3 on the season, moving to within two points of the Okotoks Oilers for second place in the AJHL’s south division. Blackfalds plays its final game before the Christmas break on Tuesday night when they travel to Spruce Grove to take on the Saints for the second time this season.