Photo credit: Bryan Wilson
The Blackfalds Bulldogs and Spruce Grove Saints met for the second and final time on Tuesday night in the 2022-23 season, with both teams playing their last game before the Christmas break. Spruce Grove took a victory out of Blackfalds with a 4-3 win in November. Blackfalds snapped a two-game skid on Saturday with a big 2-1 overtime win over the Grande Prairie Storm. Spruce Grove came in having won every game they’d played in the month of December, winning seven straight, and having last lost against Bonnyville on November 30.
Otto Hanson opened the scoring early with the only goal of the first period, taking a pass from Kody Willick and sliding the puck through the legs of Jameson Kaine in the Saints’ goal. Matthew Hennessey stood tall through 20 minutes, making 16 saves, but it was eventually Carter Oakenfold that would break through with a pair of second period goals, the first coming early on the powerplay and the second late to give the Saints a 2-1 lead going into the third period. Despite the shot margin heavily favouring Spruce Grove, Hennessey continued to shine, making 28 saves through two periods to keep Blackfalds in it.
After 60 minutes against the Grande Prairie Storm on Saturday, Blackfalds had failed to score on 21 straight powerplay opportunities, before Brett Meerman scored the OT winner on a 4-on-3 man advantage. A four minute double minor to Brophy Dunne just past the eight minute mark of the third period presented the Bulldogs powerplay with a huge opportunity to tie the game back up. The Bulldogs obliged, with Tyler Wallace finding a rebound in front of the net to tie the game up at 2-2. Wallace scoring just seconds into the double minor meant that Blackfalds would stay on the man advantage, and they would strike again quickly. Brett Meerman took a pass from Tyler Wallace in the right faceoff circle, made a good move to cut into the slot, and beat Jameson Kaine up over the glove to restore the Blackfalds lead. Short thereafter, a pair of Bulldogs penalties gave the Spruce Grove Saints an opportunity on a five-on-three, and Saints captain Luigi Benincasa would strike to tie the game up, taking a Breck McKinley pass and firing a one-timer past Hennessey to make it 3-3. Blackfalds were able to kill off the remainder of the penalty, but shortly after five-on-five was restored, Benincasa would score again, picking up a loose puck in the slot and firing over Hennessey’s glove to give the Saints a late 4-3 lead.
Ethan Leyer would seal the deal with a late empty netter, and the Saints prevailed over the Bulldogs again, winning 5-3. A 42-save performance from Matthew Hennessey was in vain, and the Bulldogs’ December record slips to 5-2-1. The Bulldogs have two more games after the Christmas break to close out 2022, both against the Olds Grizzlys, the first at home on the 30th, before a game in Olds on the 31st.