Photo credit: Xander Holcomb, Renegades Photography
Article: Aidan Serra
Blackfalds’ loss to the Fort McMurray Oil Barons last week meant their game against the Whitecourt Wolverines Tuesday was one in which they needed to earn two points to stay within striking distance of the Sherwood Park Crusaders for the league’s second-place spot.
The start to the crucial clash with the Wolverines on Tuesday was far from convincing. The first ten minutes of the game saw them badly outplayed and dominated in nearly every facet of the game. The 13-2 shots-on-goal deficit to Whitecourt made the 1-0 deficit seem like a decent outcome through ten minutes, and a stroke of fortune not only tied the game for the Bulldogs, it proved to swing the momentum of the game. Ryan Shaw’s dash down the right wing boards into the offensive zone gave him the chance to flip the puck goalwards from a sharp angle. Ben Charette in the Whitecourt net was cheating to play the pass, allowing the puck to sneak home, tying things at one. Blackfalds struck quickly after, with Tanner Willick walking into the slot off the o-zone draw for the Bulldogs. His wrist shot was stopped by Charette, but Otto Hanson was there, striking on the rebound to make it 2-1. Willick would score himself before the first period was over, finishing off a tic-tac-toe play that saw the puck sent from Hunter Brown to Brendan Ross before Ross found Tanner streaking in to tap the 3-1 goal home on the back door.
Whitecourt didn’t make good on their control of the first half of the first period but did a better job at capitalizing on their opportunities in the second. Kaiden Wiltsie beat Maxfield on a two-on-one near near the halfway point of the second to make it a one-goal game, before Colby Browne’s goal tied things at 3 on a powerplay just minutes later. After allowing three in the first, Charette had stood tall, stopping a barrage of third-period shots from Blackfalds, and making it seem like a go-ahead goal was something the Bulldogs might not earn. That changed thanks to an excellent forecheck, with Josh Sale forcing a turnover behind the Wolverines net, allowing Kody Willick to quickly convert past Charette in-tight to make it 4-3.
The Bulldogs continued to control from there, keeping the Wolverines at bay and holding on for a 4-3 win. Blackfalds, with the victory, move back within two points of second place, hoping Wednesday night brings good news between the Bonnyville Pontiacs and Sherwood Park Crusaders. The Bulldogs have their final pre-Christmas home game Friday, hosting the Lloydminster Bobcats in the two team’s first meeting of the 2023-24 season.