The Blackfalds Bulldogs opened up their first game of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) Showcase at home with a 4-2 win against the Grande Prairie Storm.
On the second day of the showcase Friday night fans from all over the province took in a regular season matchup between the two teams.
Head coach Doug Quinn said they’re happy to come away with the win but thought they played sloppy at times, including too many penalties.
“The way we want to play is we want to roll lines and keep everybody involved and when you get all those penalties sometimes it throws your team out of rhythm,” Quinn said. “I thought we were a little fortunate but a wins a win.”
The Storm opened the scoring with the lone goal of the first period by Gabriel Filion.
Having over 100 professional scouts in the building can be nerve wracking for players and Quinn said he could feel that in the opening frame.
“Unfortunately I think there were some nerves and I saw some guys doing maybe a little bit too much with the puck and so there were a lot of mistakes. If you’re going to play at higher levels this is the kind of pressure you need to deal with and manage,” he said.
In the second period the Bulldogs scored three straight goals, the first came just over two minutes into the frame by Spencer Bell.
Six minutes later, defenceman Ashton Funk fired his shot top shelf to take their first lead of the game. Less than a minute after that, forward Kody Willick hammered a point shot in off a slick pass from Otto Hanson.
However, Grande Prairie did not go away easy in the third period, at the five minute mark the Storm decreased their deficit to just one.
At the midway point of the final frame the Bulldogs put on a show for the fans as well as the numerous NHL and NCAA scouts in the building with a highlight reel goal. While in front of the net with his back facing the goaltender he fired a no look pass between his legs to Layne Loomer who slid it into the open net.
“I think unfortunately there was too much of that going on and I wanted us to maybe simplify our game but it was a big goal because they were definitely getting some momentum,” Quinn added.
In a last ditch effort the Storm pulled their goaltender with minutes remaining but the home team was able to hold on for the 4-2 conclusion.
Goaltender Matthew Hennessey got the start in net for the Bulldogs and made 25 saves in 60 minutes of play. With the win the Bulldogs improve to 3-2 on the season.
Quinn said being able to host the showcase in the town of Blackfalds is great exposure for the players and the program, including great crowds with people from across the province.
“There are a lot of scouts here and we’re drawing a lot of attention… This is a great opportunity there’s a lot of exposure with the whole league coming here and it’s a great opportunity for not only fans but for scouts to come watch us play,” he said.
Day three of the AJHL Showcase begins at noon and runs until 7 p.m. at Eagle Builders Centre when Blackfalds takes on Whitecourt.