Photo credit: Xander Holcomb, Blackfalds Bulldogs
For the Blackfalds Bulldogs, a game at the Eagle Builders Centre would have been nothing but a welcome sight. A difficult November culminated in a four-game road trip that saw the Bulldogs earn just one of a possible eight points. After a 9-3-1 October, the Bulldogs went 2-7-1 in November. The good news for the Bulldogs? The month of December sees Blackfalds play seven of their ten games on home ice, where the Bulldogs have been significantly more successful than on the road; Blackfalds boasts a .625 points percentage on home ice, while on the road their points percentage drops to .469.
Blackfalds opened the month with a Friday night date against the Bonnyville Pontiacs. Looking at both teams’ recent records, the matchup looked seemingly like a contest of contrasts; Blackfalds came in having lost four straight and six of their last seven, while Bonnyville’s previous seven games went in the exact opposite way. With their impressive Wednesday night win in Spruce Grove, the Pontiacs had won four straight and six of their last seven. Despite the recent struggles, Blackfalds’ position in the south division standings hasn’t yet made climbing up an impossibility; despite Blackfalds sitting fifth, they came into Friday sitting just five points back of the second-placed Okotoks Oilers. Furthermore, Blackfalds’ hopefulness for an ascent up the standings would be significantly bolstered if they could string together strong results in the short term with the following three games against divisional opposition that all currently sit ahead of the Bulldogs in the standings.
Despite a strong start for the Pontiacs, Blackfalds pushed back strong and earned a powerplay just over seven minutes into the game. On the man advantage, Tyler Wallace managed to work the puck down low for Brett Meerman, who made a clever move towards the front of the net, pulling the puck between his legs and slotting it through the five-hole of Bodee Weiss to make it 1-0. Bonnyville pushed back ferociously following Meerman’s goal, and before the end of the period, would find their equalizer. Cole Hipkin managed to get away from Jayden Joly down the right wing boards and snap a shot that Matthew Hennessey managed to push out with his blocker. Ludovik Tardif, however, was following up the play and fired the rebound in to make it 1-1. After being outshot 9-7 through twenty minutes, the Bulldogs dominated the second period, and managed, for a time, to take the lead. Jayden Joly pounced upon some sloppy Pontiac play in their own zone and set up Kasey Hiemstra in front to make it 2-1. Despite controlling the bulk of the second-period play, Bonnyville managed to tie things up going into the third, with Chayce Schmidt poking home a loose puck in the slot to make it 2-2. Blackfalds couldn’t come out of the second with a lead despite their 25-7 edge in second-period shots.
The third period started with more Blackfalds control, and the Bulldogs earned a powerplay out of within four minutes. Brett Meerman scored his second goal of the game just under four and a half minutes into the third. The next four and a half minutes following Meerman’s goal were, to say the least, eventful. First, a Layne Loomer centring pass from a tight angle snuck through Weiss, then Jason Siedem benefited from another Pontiacs turnover, being the beneficiary of some good work from Tyler Wallace and Brett Meerman, and finishing the play to make it 5-2. The Pontiacs would quickly push back, and just 27 seconds after Siedem scored, Nicolas Beaudoin made it 5-3 poking in a loose puck at the side of the net. Bonnyville would quickly earn a powerplay, and the man who scored in the first would strike again, making it 5-4, scoring the fifth goal in the span of 4:40. Blackfalds held on for the rest of the third, killing off another Pontiacs powerplay in the process. Matthew Hennessey finished the game with 21 saves on 25 shots to earn Blackfalds a win to start off December.
As mentioned, Blackfalds hope they can build on the win moving into next week, with one game against the Drumheller Dragons and two games of the Camrose Kodiaks on the horizon following the victory tonight. Blackfalds’ win moves them into fourth in the south, ahead of the Camrose Kodiaks.