Photo credit: Xander Holcomb, Blackfalds Bulldogs
The Blackfalds Bulldogs played their third game since the Christmas break, hosting the Sherwood Park Crusaders on Tuesday night. The Bulldogs closed out December with back-to-back wins against the Olds Grizzlys, putting them within two points of the Okotoks Oilers for second place in the South division standings. The Oilers last played on December 30, earning a win against the Canmore Eagles. Okotoks and Blackfalds play back-to-back games on the weekend, and if Blackfalds could beat Sherwood Park Tuesday, they’d go into their matchups with Okotoks having the opportunity to go four points ahead of the rest in second place. The Sherwood Park Crusaders came in having lost their only game since the Christmas break, losing 5-3 in Spruce Grove on Friday night. The Crusaders and Bulldogs have yet to play each other this season. Sherwood Park, currently, are chasing Fort McMurray who sit four points clear of them in the top half of the North standings. The roster of the Sherwood Park Crusaders features significant talent, but Sherwood’s most dangerous asset might be the man between the pipes. Erick Roest came into the game as one of just four goalies in the AJHL who have played at least 14 games and have a save percentage of .915 or above.
Roest came in having made 45 saves on four different occasions this season, and stepped up early, making a sensational save from Kasey Hiemstra on the first Bulldogs shot of the game. Roest wouldn’t be beaten for the rest of the period, making 20 saves on 20 shots, and despite a 20-1 margin in shots through the first, the game remained scoreless. Blackfalds’ best chance was in the last minute of the period, as Brendan Ross banked the puck off Roest and into the crease, but saw Tyler Miller clear it off the line before it had crossed into the net.
The Bulldogs continued their push into the second period, leading by a 30-3 short margin at the halfway point, and even despite a Kiernan Gately kneeing double minor, still couldn’t beat Erick Roest. On that powerplay, Sherwood Park managed to find the game’s best chance, but Derek Pys tipped Logan Hauer’s pass wide of the net off of the shorthanded two-on-one. Near the end of the second, the Crusaders managed to get an offensive push going, but in every instance that they managed to get a shot on Matthew Hennessey’s goal, Hennessey stood tall.
Even though the Bulldogs came out of it with an edge in shots, the third period was the most evenly matched of the entire game. The best chance of the third came from Sherwood Park’s Brendan Kuny, who rang a snap shot off the post during a Crusaders powerplay. Overtime brought back-and-forth chances, the best of which came from Blackfalds, as David Brandes and Brendan Ross both came within inches of winning the game. Sherwood Park came close, too, with Matthew Hennessey needing to make a diving glove save to deny Cade Christenson from slotting in a winner. In the dying seconds of overtime, Tyler Wallace found the puck in the neutral zone and powered his way through to find himself on a breakaway. One-on-one against Erick Roest, who had made 46 saves on 46 shots to that point in the game, Wallace, made a slick move to the backhand and found the five-hole of Roest to win the game for Blackfalds with just five seconds remaining in overtime.
Okotoks has two games in hand on the Bulldogs, but at this point, the two teams are tied in points for second place in the south division. Okotoks and Blackfalds play two games against each other this weekend, with both teams having the opportunity to take a hold of second place in the division.