The time of year when the games are more meaningful, the stakes are higher, and the emotions are heightened.
All of that and more were displayed in game two between the Blackfalds Bulldogs and the Calgary Canucks Saturday night in the first round of the Alberta Junior Hockey League playoffs.
Not only were there 16 combined goals between the two clubs but plenty of hard hits and fisticuffs were thrown in a 10-6 victory for the Bulldogs.
Head coach Doug Quinn said there were plenty of highs and lows for his team. Despite running up the scoreboard to double digits, the Bulldogs struggled defensively.
“At the end of the day we found a way to win and that’s the main thing,” Quinn said.
“We had a great start today but then I thought we got a little bit sloppy defensively and gave up some opportunities. They made the game a lot closer than it probably needed to be… We kind of got dragged into all the stuff after the whistle.
“I thought [the Canucks] were starting to run around and take some liberties with some of my players. I didn’t like that.”
The penalties were plentiful between the two rivals. In total there were a combined 102 penalty minutes, 50 of which came in the third period.
“I want my team to play disciplined but there are times when you have to stand up for yourself and your teammates. I thought we did that today,” Quinn said.
“It’s playoff hockey and sometimes that stuff happens and you know we’ll move on and be ready for the next game.”
Of those various penalties, one included a blatant goalie interference call against Calgary when they appeared to take a run at Bulldogs goalie Matthew Hennessey, who finished with 31 saves. The netminder left his net to play the puck but got steamrolled by a Canucks player.
Quinn said he thought it was a cheap play.
“Obviously, the guy knew what he was doing and that’s the style of game they play. They have some people running around and finishing checks. We need to be prepared for that and ready to go,” he added.
Bulldogs sniper Tyler Wallace had an impressive six-point night including three goals and three assists. Meanwhile, Layne Loomer finished with three points (two goals, one assist) and Jayden Joly with four points (one goal, three assists).
Blackfalds now leads the best-of-seven series 2-0 after winning the first two games at home. The series now shifts to Calgary for games three and four on Tuesday and Wednesday where Blackfalds has the opportunity to sweep the series.
Their game one victory on Friday marked the first playoff victory in franchise history. In their inaugural season last year, the Bulldogs were swept in the first round leaving them without a win.
Quinn explained the significance of the massive milestone for their organization.
“We’re trying to build something pretty special here and we’ve came a long way. Our team grew last year and we’ve taken it to another level. When it first happened it was exciting and hopefully, we can win a lot of playoff games over the years.”