Despite a split, the Dawson Creek Junior Canucks had a decent road performance over the weekend when they travelled to Beaverlodge and Fairview for back-to-back away games.
Defeating the Beaverlodge Blades 9-1 on Friday then dropping their game against the Flyers 6-3 on Saturday, the Jr. Canucks came home with two of a possible four points, but it was their Friday showing that has coach Eric Fulton proud of his team's performance.
"That was spectacular, probably the best 60 minutes we put together," Fulton said about the Beaverlodge game.
"That was the first time the defence as a group played very strongly. Our goaltender played well and our secondary scoring was good, we got points from all four lines and it was good to see everyone chipping in and working hard for a common goal. It was quite surprising and quite pleasant."
The Blades came out strong in the first period on Friday, outshooting the Jr. Canucks 9-7 and tying the game at 1-1 to match Ryan McCallum's opening goal. Dawson Creek's goaltender Steven Ridley had to come up big to keep the Blades from getting the go-ahead goal, and the Jr. Canucks thanked him by scoring three unanswered goals in the second.
Frustrated by the Jr. Canucks' puck possession, the Blades began to get chippy in the second and stir things up out on the ice, which is when Dawson Creek chose to capitalize on their mistakes.
"We knew what they were doing," Fulton said. "We were getting all the momentum, they couldn't get the puck out of their zone, we were frustrating them and they wanted to stop the play and slow everything down. They wanted to get us out of focus with the fighting aspect, which I thought we handled fairly well.
"Our guys have to protect themselves, but we didn't want to go out and add fuel to the fire by getting chippy with them. We wanted to play the game we've been playing and it paid off with a bunch of goals."
Justin Greyeyes and McCallum both scored on the power play in the second, while Randy Spoklie scored at even strength with assists to Trevor Whynot and Kevin Hubert.
In the third, again the Jr. Canucks took advantage of the Blades' undisciplined play. Colton Gies and Kyler Krantz scored back-to-back power play goals to put Dawson Creek up 6-1, then Whynot was dragged down on a breakaway and gifted a penalty shot.
"He did a great job of getting free and using his speed, and the guy had to haul him down," Fulton said. "The referee made a good call with a penalty shot and he went in a buried it top shelf, it was a good goal."
Krantz and Hubert added two more goals in the last two minutes of the game, and the Jr. Canucks left the Beaverlodge Arena with a 9-1 win, outshooting the Blades 40-13.
"We gave our hard hat award to the whole rookie group," Fulton said. "It was the first game all of them came to play and all of them played well. That was the best part of it. Our vets have been carrying this team and the rookies stepped up and did a really good job.
"Then we went into Fairview and decided to only play maybe a period and a half," he added. "We didn't play very disciplined, and that hurt us."
On Saturday, the Flyers were quick to capitalize on the Jr. Canucks' penalties, going two-for-two on power plays in the first and quickly getting a deadly 3-0 lead after one period and outshooting Dawson Creek 17-3.
"Every night's different in hockey, that's the way it goes," Fulton said. "You want to try and find a vein in consistency, but it's the hardest sport to be consistent in because it's such a read-and-react game. The one thing is we can't afford to play undisciplined. We took some really selfish penalties, we did some selfish things away from the puck.
"We [came back] last time we were there," he added. "We were down 3-0 and came back 3-3 We got up, did our job, but then put our brains to the side and decided to be undisciplined again, and that hurt us."
The Jr. Canucks did manage to get three goals, one from Greyeyes in the second, and two more from Krantz and captain Connor Rose in the third, but it was too little too late, and the Flyers got the 6-3 win at home.
For his three-point night, the league gave Greyeyes the third star of the game, which Fulton says doesn't surprise him.
"Every team that's had to play against that young man lately has figured out what a quality hockey player he is," he said. "It goes along with his personal demeanor as well. He's a good human being, now he's being a good hockey player so he should be proud of himself."
Fulton was also quite happy with his goalies over the weekend.
"The first night against Beaverlodge, Scuba Steve [Ridley] kept us in it early," he said. "They tested us hard in the start and he made some big stops.
"I thought Bruin [Stair] had more of the workload but he gave us a shot to win. The goals weren't first-shot goals. He had one deflected by a teammate, the power-play goals were rebound goals and I thought he played well, too. It wasn't a clear decision of who was the better goalie even though one won and one lost."
The Jr. Canucks will get a chance to redeem themselves against the Flyers this Saturday when they host Fairview at the Memorial Arena. With the Flyers in fourth place in the North West Junior Hockey League and the Jr. Canucks in fifth, it's important for Dawson Creek to start getting some wins out of the Flyers in preparation for the post-season.
"We always want to be good in our own barn, but we need to beat Fairview," Fulton said. "If you look ahead that's probably the team we're going to see in the playoffs, and we need to win in their barn but we can't lose in ours and the boys know that."
Saturday's home game against the Flyers starts at 8 p.m. at the Memorial Arena, followed by another home game against the North Peace Navigators on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
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