Photo credit: Xander Holcomb, Renegades Photography
Blackfalds’ schedule being, in a word, odd, is not a rarity throughout the 2023-24 season. Between Sunday, September 24 and Thursday, October 12 the Bulldogs played just one game at the Eagle Builders Centre; a game they won on October 3 over the Bonnyville Pontiacs. Conversely, between October 13 and November 4, Blackfalds plays seven games on home ice, starting with a two-game set on Friday and Saturday nights against the Canmore Eagles and Calgary Canucks. Despite not just a road-heavy but a travel-heavy stretch of time to finish September, Blackfalds continued to find a way to pump out victories, winning every one of the six games they’d played between September 23 and October 6.
Blackfalds’ first game back at the Eagle Builders Centre came Friday night against an opponent they’d recently faced at the AJHL showcase, the Canmore Eagles. Blackfalds and Canmore had played what felt like a one-sided game at the showcase, although Matthew Malin’s strong play for the Eagles kept them right in the game for what felt like the entirety of proceedings. His 39 saves on 41 shots, however, wasn’t enough. The Bulldogs added an empty net goal and Ethan Morrow’s 26-save shutout earned them a 3-0 win.
Blackfalds started their Friday night clash with Canmore on a solid foot, controlling play for the majority of the first period, and eventually striking on their first power play of the game. Eddie Moskowitz recovered a rebound on the right side half wall and set up Layne Loomer in the slot, who pounded the puck past Canmore’s John MacPherson and in to make it 1-0. Loomer, who had last played on September 27 thanks to an upper-body injury, scored just 13 minutes into his return from injury. Blackfalds’ first-period domination culminated in a 15-3 shots on goal edge through 20 minutes, and they wouldn’t take their foot off the gas in the second period.
22 seconds into the second period, Dakota MacIntosh scored on a baseball-style shot out of mid-air, making it 2-0 Blackfalds early, and the Bulldogs never looked back from there. Three more second-period goals put the game to bed through forty, with Eddie Moskowitz and Otto Hanson each scoring before MacIntosh buried his second. Owen Jones and Brendan Ross traded goals after that, with the game ending 6-1 Blackfalds. Ethan Morrow’s night was a solid and steady one despite limited action, stopping 11 of the 12 shots he faced. Blackfalds maintained their consistent pressure throughout the 60 minutes, eventually outshooting Canmore 43-12 by the end of the game.
Blackfalds’ second game of the weekend marked their first game of the year against the Calgary Canucks, in the two teams’ first head-to-head matchup since the first round of the 2023 AJHL playoffs. Blackfalds bested Calgary in five games, but the Canucks’ 7-2-2 record going into Saturday’s matchup was indicative of a vastly improved team. Blackfalds struck first and struck early, however, with Brendan Ross taking a pass in front of the net from Dakota MacIntosh and finished off his twelfth goal of the year already. Ethan Casper ended up being credited with Calgary’s equalizing goal, a bizarre one that bounced over Wilson Maxfield’s stick as he came out of his crease to field a slow-moving dump-in. It took the Bulldogs 95 seconds to find a response, with Brendan Gillmore trailing a rush, finding a loose puck in a good spot, and hammering home his first career AJHL goal to make it 2-1. Just as he did in the first period of the previous game, Layne Loomer struck on the power play again, roofing a backhand shot from in-tight past Julian Molinaro to make it 3-1.
Despite a rather comfortable two-goal lead through 20 minutes, Blackfalds wouldn’t relinquish their intense puck pressure from there, scoring a goal each in the second and third periods to put the game beyond Calgary, with Dakota MacIntosh and Alexander Dimitriadis each continuing personal hot streaks to make it 5-1. After the unlucky goal in the first, Wilson Maxfield shut the door, making 22 total saves in the victory. Blackfalds faces the Drumheller Dragons for the second time this season at the EBC on Tuesday, with their previous game against them ending in a 9-3 loss, their only loss at home on the year so far.