Kodiaks battle to stay in contention in South with split
Canmore Eagle Max Giangualano rolls the puck under Camrose Kodiak goalie Griffin Bowerman to score a goal during Alberta Junior Hockey action in Canmore on Friday. The Kodiaks won 5-4. Pam Doyle/ www.pamdoylephoto.com
A split is what the Camrose Kodiaks needed from their two-game trip to Canmore, and a split is what they got.
The Kodiaks’ two-games against the Eagles was one of their most important of the season as they are fighting to keep in touch with the rest of the pack from the basement of the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s South Division. With their 5-4 win on Friday and 2-0 loss on Saturday they did just that. They would have preferred four points out of the weekend series, but two points were an absolute must.
“Getting a split was huge, but at the same time you have to get on a roll where you win two or three in a row,” said Kodiaks head coach and general manager Boris Rybalka.
The Kodiaks were one point behind the Olds Grizzlys for seventh place and two points behind Canmore and the Calgary Canucks for fifth and sixth, heading into Tuesday night’s game in Drayton Valley (results not available at press time), with seemingly everyone else winning in the bottom four of the division.
One of the bigger obstacles they faced in Canmore was the loss of two of their top players – Kyler Kupka and Jacob Kendall – to Canada West tryouts for the World Junior A Championship following their Friday contest. With Ryan Hartman still on the mend from a concussion, they were down three of their top five scorers for the Saturday rematch.
They responded by focusing on their own end and cut their shots allowed from 43 to 25, they were just unable to put one of their 29 shots past Eagles goalie Logan Dyck.
“I thought we might have played better Saturday than we did Friday, which shows the fine line, but their goalie played very well,” said Rybalka. “The coaching staff was proud of the effort and how hard they worked.”
Much of the Kodiaks’ offence has fallen to rookie forward Brock Bremer who has continued to excel without the club’s top centreman. He, in fact, has taken over the team lead in points with 29 (10 goals, 19 assists) in 28 games. Hartman is still second with 24 points (11-13-24) in 18 games. Both Bremer and Kendall had a goal and two assists in Friday’s win.
“It’s always the next man up, and a lot of the guys have shown that,” said Bremer.
Rybalka has made a concerted effort to upgrade the blue-line over the last month and has brought in several major contributors, include Peter Kope, Nicholas Sutter, Dawson Schwengler, and goalie Luke Lush.
This has taken pressure off of the offensive group and they are all starting to work together.
“He’s helped our blue-line a lot right now, and it has probably helped our forwards more than the D as the last probably five games we’ve put the goals against down a lot which helps, now we just need to get the offence going again.”
The Kodiaks will have the opportunity to climb the division in a hurry this weekend with another two games against the Eagles, this time in Camrose on Friday and Saturday, and then a showdown with arch rival Olds on Tuesday. Depending on what happens on Tuesday against Drayton Valley, it is a potential eight-point boost to their total.
“This is probably one of the most important stretches of the year so far,” said Bremer. “We need to make sure we pick up these big points against teams that are with us in the standings. It’s tight right now, so any points help.”