After a 60-game regular season dating all the way back to Sept. 17, playoff hockey has officially begun for the Calgary Canucks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL). On Tuesday, March 8 the Canucks hosted game three against their first-round opponent, the Drumheller Dragons, at Ken Bracko Arena in Calgary.
The Canucks, who are in a modern-day David versus Goliath situation, entered the game with the series tied at one apiece. The first game went to the seventh-seeded Canucks by a score of 4-0, while the number two seed, Dragons, took game two by a final of 3-1.
In game three, the idea of ‘home-ice advantage’ would cease to exist for the Canucks. They would ultimately fall at the hands of the Dragons, 5-1.
The Canucks struggled against the offensive pressure of the Dragons, leading to numerous turnovers and long shifts in their defensive zone which allowed Drumheller to open the scoring on a power-play. The first goal was from a shot by Dragons skater Keegan Beagle, which pinballed off several bodies and into the net with less than five minutes remaining in the first period.
The Canucks started off the second period with some high-quality scoring chances but a backbreaking goal by Dragons forward Carter Belitski took the wind out of their sails. Their offensive pressure present at the start of the period was deflated and crushed almost instantly.
After the game, Canucks head coach and general manager Brad Moran said his team lacked the tenacity they had shown in the previous two games and it resulted in turning the puck over repeatedly.
“We need more shots, that was the biggest difference between the first two games, we didn’t put pucks on net, we kind of held onto them. I think that it creates a little more havoc in their end and that will be a key for us,” said Moran.
The dagger was eventually driven home as the Dragons scored with just 0.4 seconds left in the second period, followed by another goal in the opening moments of the third period to make it 4-0.
Calgary’s lone goal would come midway through the third frame, courtesy of Canucks regular-season scoring leader Justin Barker. The goal would be Barker’s second of the postseason as well.
The Dragons would eventually add a fifth goal in the dying moments of the game, sealing the deal.
Despite the loss, Moran and his club are not dwelling on the mistakes made in game three. They are already focused on what’s to come in game four.
“We gotta stay pretty level here, it’s [the] playoffs. We’re going to be up [and] we’re going to be down. That’s done. The series is 2-1 [and] that’s the only thing that matters. We are going to focus on the next period and come out ready to go, then go from there,” said Moran.
Game four is set for Wednesday, March 9 at Ken Bracko Arena.