Photo credit: Xander Holcomb, Renegades Photography
Article: Aidan Serra
The fourth and final road trip to Northern Alberta for the Blackfalds Bulldogs was primed to see them continue the fight for the top two spots in the league standings. The Brooks Bandits’ sixteen-game heater has helped them pull away from the Bulldogs and the Sherwood Park Crusaders, leading to the Bulldogs and Crusaders fighting hard for second place. The Crusaders have been perfect since their loss to the Bulldogs, which put all the more pressure on Blackfalds’ success on the trip to Fort McMurray and Bonnyville.
Blackfalds, unfortunately, went into the trip shorthanded, with the injuries to Eddie Moskowitz and Nolan DuPont being paired with Layne Loomer and Alexander Dimitriadis’ absence thanks to their World Junior ‘A’ selections.
The Oil Barons, despite their woes elsewhere, have had the Bulldogs’ number all year, winning both previous meetings between the two teams. Blackfalds’ star man continued his run of form, with Brendan Ross notching the opening goal, before Rylan Ringor tied things up for the Oil Barons, making things 1-1 through one. The game opened up in a big way in the second period, with the two teams trading goals throughout; Carter Schmidt’s 2-1 goal saw Tanner Willick tie things up, Keefe Gruneer made it 3-2, then Brendan Ross made it 3-3. Ryan Arnold struck late to make it 4-3, and the Bulldogs couldn’t muster another equalizer from there.
Demtri DiFlorio scored the only goal of the third period to give the Oil Barons some insurance, giving the Oil Barons their third win of the year over the Bulldogs, and giving the Crusaders a game up over Blackfalds.
The loss Thursday made Friday’s battle in Bonnyville a pressure-filled one for the Bulldogs, and an early lead for the Bulldogs thanks to Brendan Ross gave them a good foundation with which to work. Hunter Brown and Ryan Shaw would strike quickly to make it 3-0 before Tyler Blocha notched a goal back prior to the end of the first.
Brendan Gillmore struck early in the second to make it 4-1, but Bonnyville wouldn’t go away and would make it 4-3 before the end of the second, thanks to goals from Nicolas Beaudoin and Myles Gauld. Michael Ryan’s point shot early in the third period tied things up, with Blackfalds’ 4-1 lead, at that point, a thing of the distant past. Jayden Joly, who registered an assist in the first to extend his point streak to 11 games, would stay hot and score in the third period, muscling home a rebound in front of the net to make it 5-4. Ethan Morrow stood tall and the Bulldogs closed things out from there, saving their blushes of a blown lead and winning things 5-4.
Blackfalds’ week is set to get all the more crucial from here, with games against Whitecourt and Lloydminster on home ice the preamble for Saturday’s clash in Brooks.