Photo credit: Xander Holcomb, Renegades Photography
In two years as a franchise, the Blackfalds Bulldogs have won games against every single AJHL team – save for one, the Spruce Grove Saints. Although it was only a preseason game, and the first preseason game of the new season at that, the Bulldogs were still hungry to get the monkey off their back.
In the effort to that end, the game didn’t begin Blackfalds’ way, with Spruce Grove’s Ashton Hutchinson eventually putting home a rebound in front of the Bulldogs net, after an early flurry of Saints chances. The Bulldogs’ entire first period was played slightly behind the pace set by Spruce Grove, and the Saints were eventually rewarded for their pressure again , doubling the lead thanks to a Jed Maggarrell one-time blast that found the net through Blackfalds’ Ethan Morrow.
The Bulldogs’ start to the second period was a 180º turn from the start to their first, with them being the ones to this time set the pace and take the game to the Spruce Grove Saints. Ben Winkelmann pulled the Bulldogs back within one just 53 seconds into the second, following up on his own pass attempt to force the puck behind Zac Onyskiw in the Spruce Grove net. Blackfalds, however, couldn’t keep Spruce Grove’s offensive prowess at bay, with ASU commit Trey Fechko taking a pass from Josh Polak in the slot and firing past Ethan Morrow’s blocker to make it 3-1. Blackfalds, however, earned a powerplay opportunity 21 seconds after they conceded the goal, and scored on the ensuing man advantage. Some decent puck movement eventually gave Matt Hanscom a chance in the slot, and he found the roof of the net past Onyskiw, pulling the Bulldogs to within one going into the third period.
Blackfalds would manage to pull the game to 3-3 just 5:53 into the third period, with great work down low from Josh Sale setting up Connor Dick in the slot. Dick’s patented wrist shot was in the net before Onyskiw could react, and Blackfalds had fully dragged the game back to level. The game’s last two minutes and change would decide the winner in an eventful manner, with Ryder Matter giving the Saints a 4-3 lead, scoring on a backdoor pass from Evan Sundar with 125 seconds remaining. Blackfalds, however, took less than a minute to equalize, with Bobby Corkery taking a pass from Carter Patterson and pounding a one-time drive past Onyskiw and in to make it 4-4. The game looked destined for overtime, but with time expiring, pressure from the Saints would earn them a game-winning goal. Carter Oakenfold’s cross-ice pass attempt deflected off an errand Bulldogs stick in front and was diverted past Ethan Morrow and in, giving the Saints a 5-4 lead with thirteen seconds remaining.
Blackfalds moves on to their second of a three-in-three tonight against the Drumheller Dragons. Drumheller then will play host to Blackfalds on Saturday night, wrapping up the opening weekend of the 2023-24 preseason for the Blackfalds Bulldogs.