Photo credit: Xander Holcomb, Blackfalds Bulldogs
The Blackfalds Bulldogs won their two home games to kick off their first-round series against the Calgary Canucks by 5-2 and 10-6 scores, winning their first two home games to open up the series. The big test, however, was going to be going on the road, as the Blackfalds Bulldogs have consistently played better hockey on home ice throughout the season. In the regular season, Blackfalds managed to win all three games they played in Calgary, with the latest of the three victories coming on February 24.
Blackfalds did not waste any time opening the scoring in the first period, with forward Jason Siedem picking out Alexey Trischuk at the right point with a perfect pass from the left-side half wall. Trischuk took the space afforded to him, moving toward the top of the circle before picking his spot over the glove of Calgary’s Max Prazma to give Blackfalds a 1-0 lead just 2:05 into the first. Blackfalds’ offensive pressure continued throughout the first period, and after Kody Willick and Matthew Strilets took a roughing penalty apiece, Blackfalds were able to score on the four-on-four. Tyler Wallace, who came into game 3 leading the entire playoffs in points, forced a turnover and sprung Bulldogs captain Brett Meerman on a breakaway. Meerman calmly moved in and opened up Prazma’s five-hole with a deke before sliding the puck through the Canuck goaltender’s legs to make it a 2-0 game.
After the first period saw two seasoned AJHL veterans get on the board for Blackfalds, the rookies took over for Blackfalds in the second period, as the Bulldogs struck twice in just over four minutes to extend the lead to 4-0. First, Carter Patterson found Layne Loomer in the slot with a perfect pass that Loomer fired past Prazma’s glove to give Blackfalds their third, followed up by a Connor Dick goal set up beautifully by Kody Willick to make it four. Daniel Rozsival was able to get a goal back late in the second, following up to fire home the rebound from a Bowden Singleton snapshot to make it 4-1.
Taking a 4-1 lead into the third, the Bulldogs went into a protect-the-lead mode, successfully stifling the majority of the Canucks’ attacks. Kasey Hiemstra tipped in a Connor Dick centring pass 7:47 into the third to make it 5-1, but Daniel Rozsival quickly struck again to make it a three-goal game shortly thereafter. Calgary pulled the goaltender with five minutes to go to make a late push, but their efforts were in vain, as Jack Plandowski saw his cross-ice pass deflect off of Canuck defenceman Connor Frost and into the empty cage to make it a 6-2 game.
Matthew Hennessey’s 27 saves earned him his third win of the series, as the Blackfalds goaltender has now not lost in his last nine starts dating back to February 11. Blackfalds takes a 3-0 series lead with the opportunity to close out the series Wednesday night in Calgary.