Saints start new cohort series with a pair of victories

Article content

The Spruce Grove Saints opened their four game cohort series against the Drayton Valley Thunder with a 4-3 victory in game one on Friday, followed by another 4-3 win in game two on Sunday.

Spruce Grove improved to 2-0 against Drayton Valley, and 7-7 on the Alberta Junior Hockey League Season with the pair of victories last weekend.

The Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) recently announced the new team cohort groups and game schedule for the next two weeks of competition under the AJHL Return to Play Plan. Games will continue to be played exclusively on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays with the current round of game play spanning April 16 to 25.

In game one on Friday a big third period propelled the Saints past the Thunder in their cohort opener of the Alberta Junior Hockey League cohort series between the two clubs at the Grant Fuhr Arena in Spruce Grove.

The two teams went punch for punch in the first period. Dexter Mozell gave Drayton Valley an early lead but it was short lived as Jaydon Davis connected on a pass from Lucas Watkins to tie the contest at 1-1. Jacob Rochford received a secondary assist on the goal.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

Drayton Valley forward Mason Marcellus re-established Drayton Valley’s lead in the second period, with the lone goal in the middle frame.

Spruce Grove came flying out of the locker room, earning themselves an early power play. Defenceman Brophy Dunne ensured his club capitalized on the opportunity, with his first goal in a Saints uniform, five minutes into the final frame.

Midway through the third, forward Sam Vincent connected on a pass from linemate Brett Pfoh to give the Saints a 3-2 lead. Pfoh was not done there. With six minutes on the clock and the Saints on the power play again, Pfoh buried a pass from Liam Watkins to make it 4-2. Logan Acheson picked up a secondary assist on the play.

Thunder forward Dylan Price made it 4-3 late in the third. Saints goaltender Tyler Palmer made 24 saves on 27 shots he faced for the win while Ward stopped 21 of 25 shots for the Thunder.

“It’s really good to see the group come together and really focus on our structure,” said Saints captain Graham Gamache after the weekend wins. “We were getting above the puck and keeping them hemmed in their zone especially in that Sunday game, in that third period they didn’t get a lot of o-zone (offensive zone) time and we love to see that. We’re just getting better every day.”

Saints forward Jacob Rochford said the Thunder are a close rival that put up a battle every game. He anticipates a hard working team in the cohort series.

“We played them in the pre-season and there’s a good battle so I’m excited to play them….and excited to see how our team can do against them,” said Rochford.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

On Sunday the two teams met at the Drayton Valley Omniplex in Drayton Valley.

It was a back and forth first period between the two teams ended 1-1, with goals from Saints forward Kye Whillans and Thunder forward Daniel Kernaghan.

Drayton Valley took their second lead of the game midway through the second period after Grayson Reid finished off a passing play set up by linemates Tyler Blocha and Ethan Casper. Again the Saints responded quickly. First, Luigi Benicasa tied the game after being set up by Saints forward Nikola Jovanovich. Forward Logan Acheson earned a secondary assist for starting the play with a pass to Jovanovich.

The Saints were not done there. With just over three minutes left in the second, McKay Hayes made it 3-2 for Spruce Grove, with assists going to defenceman Brophy Dunne and Breck McKinley.

Then it was Graham Gamache’s turn to get in on the offence for the Saints. Gamache made no mistake on an opportunity created by Saints defencemen Breck McKinley and Keegan Law, who netted his first career AJHL point on Sunday, early in the third period to give Spruce Grove a 4-2 lead.

Drayton Valley cut the lead in half with a goal from Dylan Price with 27 seconds on the clock, but their comeback attempt fell short for the second time in as many games.

“They’re a veteran team with a lot of older guys, 20 and 19 year olds. They play a very similar game to us,” said Saints head coach Bram Stephen. “When we’re playing them it feels like two teams trying to play the same style of play and it’ll be a challenge for us in a different way.”

It was a night that Saints goaltender Levi Hall will not soon forget, as the 18-year-old Stony Plain native picked up his first career AJHL win. Hall stopped 19 of 22 shots he faced for the victory, while Thunder goaltender Mitchell Dundar made 36 saves on 40 shots in the loss.

Game three in the cohort series is set for April 23, at the Drayton Valley Omniplex. Puck drop is 7 p.m.

With files from Josh Thomas

kjean@postmedia.com

http://twitter.com/globetrekker360

News Near Stony Plain

This Week in Flyers