Photo credit: Xander Holcomb, Blackfalds Bulldogs
The Blackfalds Bulldogs continued their three-game road trip Friday, playing their second and final game of the season against the Whitecourt Wolverines. The home team had come into the game having won five straight games and had only lost twice since the start of December. Blackfalds had a four-game winning streak of their own snapped by the Okotoks Oilers in their previous game, losing 3-2 on January 7.
The Bulldogs started the first period strong, and their heavy pressure early was eventually rewarded with Tyler Wallace beating Lochlan Gordon on the glove-hand side 12 minutes into the game to make it 1-0 Blackfalds. Following the opening goal, both teams traded unsuccessful powerplay opportunities until a Jack Franklin interference minor gave the Bulldogs a late powerplay chance, and it was Jayden Joly deflecting in a David Brandes point shot on the ensuing man advantage that doubled the lead to 2-0.
Whitecourt’s best stretch of the game was their middle and the consistent second-period pressure yielded positive results for the Wolverines, first with Dylan Leslie tipping home a point shot to make it 2-1, then with captain Chase Broda’s sweet set of hands to tie the game up 2-2. Despite the first three-quarters of the second period being primarily controlled by Whitecourt, Blackfalds immediately pushed back and took just 27 seconds after Broda had tied it to restore their lead. Tyler Wallace’s long wrist shot from the top of the offensive zone was first knocked out of the air and then fired past Lochlan Gordon by Jayden Joly in the slot, giving him his second of the game, and the Bulldogs their lead back.
Blackfalds and Whitecourt traded quality scoring opportunities early in the third period but both Charlie Zolin in the Bulldogs net and Lochlan Gordon in the Wolverines net stood tall enough to keep it a 3-2 game. Just before the halfway point of the period, a Whitecourt dump in seemingly set to ring around the wall took a crazy bounce off the corner boards and popped into the crease. Zolin had left his net to play the puck, and couldn’t get back in time to deny Colby Browne what ostensibly was an empty net goal to tie the game 3-3. However, as was the case in the second, Whitecourt couldn’t keep the game tied for long. Just 92 seconds after Browne’s equalizer, Jason Siedem found Brendan Ross with a gorgeous cross-ice pass on a perfectly executed three-on-two, and Ross’ no-mistake finish restored the Blackfalds lead. Whitecourt came close near the end, with a broken sequence ending with the puck bouncing in the crease behind Zolin, but Blackfalds’ Carter Patterson was heroically there to clear away and help ensure Blackfalds’ win.
Charlie Zolin’s 25 saves were, in the end, enough for the Bulldogs to see off Whitecourt for the second time this year. Blackfalds will close out the three-game road trip tonight in Grande Prairie. Following that, they’ll play the Drumheller Dragons at home before embarking on another road trip, this time spanning four games and closing out January in Brooks, Calgary, Drumheller, and Okotoks.