Photo credit: Xander Holcomb, Blackfalds Bulldogs
Article: Aidan Serra
Coming into Tuesday night The two teams have pretty different months, with Whitecourt’s 8-1-2 record a stark upgrade over their performances in September and October. The Wolverines came into November with a 6-10-1 record, but have since improved to 14-11-3, good enough for 31 points, tied for seventh in the AJHL. Their 77 goals against is second-best in the AJHL, with only the Brooks Bandits boasting a better defensive record. A big reason for that is Wolverines goaltender Ben Charette. He’s only lost in regulation once in his last ten games, and made 31 saves on 33 shots in his last game, Whitecourt’s 6-2 win over the Drayton Valley Thunder. Charette’s .933 save percentage is the best in the AJHL, and only Brooks’ Johnny Hicks has more than Charette’s three shutouts. Through 28 games, the Bulldogs had suffered just six losses in regulation. Only one, however, came in the form of being shutout, which was at the hands of Charette, when he blanked the Bulldogs with 36 saves on November 11, in a game the Bulldogs dominated, but couldn’t score, and lost 3-0.
That loss was the first of what turned into five straight defeats for the Bulldogs, but they’d managed to turn the tide a little bit, winning back-to-back games against the Bonnyville Pontiacs and Spruce Grove Saints. Whitecourt’s start to the game was one of a determined team, and the Bulldogs only managed to keep the Wolverines at bay thanks to some timely and much-needed saves from Ethan Morrow. Morrow’s ten stops through 20 minutes sent the game into the break scoreless, setting the stage for the Bulldogs to start the second period strong. A pair of powerplays in the first half of the second period both bore fruit for Blackfalds, with Brendan Ross first continuing his fine run of form, taking a pass from Carter Patterson at the top of the right face-off circle and firing a laser past Ben Charette to make it 1-0. Much like the first, the second powerplay converted quickly, with Patterson this time finding a goal of his own, taking a wrist shot from the middle of the ice that eluded Charette to make it 2-0.
The Bulldogs would keep the momentum going at five-on-five and would find a third goal through Ross once more, with the Alaska-Fairbanks commit jumping on a turnover and snapping a shot that beat Charette on the glove side. The Wolverines goaltender would see his night end just 17 seconds after that, with the Bulldogs’ first line breaking in once more. Ross jumped on a loose puck at the side of the net, chopping a backhand pass to the middle, where Hunter Brown was waiting to tuck the 4-0 goal home.
The Wolverines were able to make the scoreline respectable, but save for goals from Evan Johnson and Spencer Rheaume, Ethan Morrow shut the door to help the Bulldogs secure a 4-2 win, their third consecutive victory.
Blackfalds ends November with a 5-4-2 record, bringing their season totals to 20-6-3, good enough for third place in the league. A big first weekend of December sees the Drayton Valley Thunder and Sherwood Park Crusaders visit, with the Bulldogs hoping a successful weekend can help them leapfrog the Crusaders for second place in the league.