Photo credit: Xander Holcomb, Blackfalds Bulldogs
The Blackfalds Bulldogs and Drumheller Dragons had jockeyed and swapped positions in the standings throughout November, but since December, Blackfalds had been clear of Drumheller in the standings. Drumheller, however, still sat within striking distance, and three more games against Blackfalds could strongly help the Dragons’ cause in their pursuit of the South division’s top three. Blackfalds, on the other hand, have five consecutive road games following Tuesday night’s game, meaning the final home game of the month marked a good opportunity for Blackfalds to extend their lead over Drumheller in the standings.
Drumheller came out of the gate flying, keeping the puck in the Bulldogs zone for the first 90 seconds of the game, and peppering Matthew Hennessey with numerous good chances off the hop. However, the Bulldogs made good on their first real possession of the game, with Evan Mitchell springing Brett Meerman the other way on a rush. Meerman slowed as he entered the Dragons zone before sending a perfect pass to the top of the crease, where Kurt Gurkan was waiting. Gurkan tipped the puck through the legs of Garrett Fuller in the Drumheller goal to make it 1-0 Blackfalds early. The Dragons, however, didn’t back down, and while teams continued to trade good scoring chances, it was Drumheller who managed to score the next goal of the game. Former Medicine Hat Tiger Noah Danielson walked down the right-hand side and ripped a perfect wrist shot over Matthew Hennessey’s glove, netting his fourteenth on the year and making it 1-1.
A late first-period Evan Mitchell holding penalty and an early second-period Tyler Wallace cross-checking penalty combined early in the middle frame to give Drumheller a five-on-three chance, and it was on said five-on-three that Drumheller would grab the lead. Ty Daneault found Noah Danielson in front with a perfect pass, letting Danielson redirect the puck past Hennessey making it 2-1. Kurt Gurkan, however, would score his second of the game less than four minutes later. Carter Patterson did very well to rush the puck down the right-hand side, waited, and picked out Gurkan in the slot. Gurkan beat Fuller over the blocker and tied the game, making it 2-2 early in the second.
Blackfalds and Drumheller’s stalemate continued into the third period, and it was late in the third period that the Dragons were gifted the best chance they’d get to win it in regulation. Jacob Dennis was hit in the defensive zone, leading to his stick riding up and clipping a Dragons player in the face. Dennis got four minutes for high-sticking, but it was Blackfalds’ penalty kill that came through, killing off all four minutes and taking the game into overtime. Early in the overtime period, Matthew Hennessey made a strong save on Noah Danielson, leading to Tyler Wallace picking up the puck and breaking back the other way. Wallace took the puck from one end to the other, before picking his spot past Garrett Fuller’s glove to give Blackfalds their third straight win and their seventh win in their last eight. The Bulldogs move on to play the first-placed Brooks Bandits Friday, the first of five straight road games.