The Blackfalds Bulldogs may have already clinched a playoff spot but they’re not taking the rest of the regular season lightly.
With just under 10 games left, the Bulldogs aren’t coasting into the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s (AJHL) postseason and that showed Friday night at the Eagle Builders Centre.
As they attempt to move up in the standings the Bulldogs won their third straight contest beating the Canmore Eagles 4-1.
“I think [these games] are important,” said head coach Doug Quinn after the game. “We’re still trying to move up in the standings and we’re trying to build a culture here. We want to try and win all of our games so we’re going to keep building.”
The Bulldogs are in third place in the South Division, two points behind the Okotoks Oilers for second place. In first place, the Brooks Bandits are impossible to catch sitting 27 points ahead.
Quinn explained his team is getting stronger as the season has progressed.
“There’s times where we didn’t manage the puck as well as what I’d like and some of those detail things, some breakdowns defensively,” Quinn said.
”We’re getting stronger, we’re learning, we’re rolling all four lines, and so we’re giving our young guys every opportunity.”
Friday night in Blackfalds began with some controversy when the home team appeared to score early in the first period but it was ruled a no-goal immediately after it went in.
The Bulldogs continued to apply the pressure outshooting the Eagles 15-8 but couldn’t buy a goal.
However, the Bulldogs went down late in the opening frame when forward Reed Jacobson put the Eagles up 1-0 with 30 seconds left.
Blackfalds eventually found the back of the net in the second period with quick back-to-back goals. The first came at the 14:18 minute mark off the stick of David Brandes for his sixth of the season. Just over 30 seconds later forward Jack Plandowski put the home team on top 2-1 heading into the third period.
The Bulldogs killed off an important Eagles powerplay opportunity late in the third period only to be rewarded shortly after.
Blackfalds sealed the deal over 15 minutes into the final frame with a golden opportunity in front of the net by Kurt Gurkan to take a 3-1 lead.
With just minutes left tempers boiled over when Bulldogs Jake Geraci and Eagles Rhett Dekowny both went to the penalty box for roughing. The pair engaged after the whistle had been blown with plenty of shoving and a few punches only to continue chirping at one another through the glass of the penalty box.
Canmore pulled the goalie in an attempt at one final push but Bulldogs’ Jason Siedem fired the puck into the open net.
Quinn explained overall he was happy with the team effort.
“We had a lot of opportunities to score early and we didn’t. Then we had the one breakdown the next thing you know we thought we played well in the first and we’re down 1-0,” Quinn said. “I thought we stayed patient and eventually we were rewarded with our effort.”
Goaltender Matthew Hennessey was strong between the pipes for Blackfalds and made 27 saves. These performances have become common for him posting a 2.77 goals-against average, which is fourth among goalies in the AJHL.
“Probably since late November, he’s been really strong. He’s given us that consistent goaltending and you can see it. He’s getting the wins and moving right up as far as being one of the top goalies in the league,” Quinn said.