Eagles suffer pair of losses on northern road trip

Craig Douce - Canmore

Forward Justin Gvora has held the hot hand as of late for the Eagles by scoring five goals in the last six games.

By Jason Pirie

Despite team leader Andy Hyvarinen potting six goals and Justin Gvora finally playing to his offensive potential by lighting the lamp in all three contests, the Canmore Eagles were able to muster just a single win from their three-game steel wheels tour of the north.

The Eagles were first edged 5-4 by the St. Albert Steel on Friday (Nov. 9), then lost to the Spruce Grove Saints 5-3 the following night (Nov. 10), before winning a Sunday afternoon (Nov. 11) tilt in convincing fashion over the Sherwood Park Crusaders, 5-1.

The most recent victory improves the Eagles' season record to 11-13-0-2, and earns them sole possession of fifth place in the Alberta Junior Hockey League's (AJHL) eight-team South Division.

According to Eagles' head coach/GM Bob Miller, his troops played good enough hockey and probably deserved more than just a deuce for their efforts.

"Coming home with three or four points, which was probably achievable, would have made it a much better weekend for us," Miller said. "Other than the first game on Friday night, we executed the game plan really well. It's disappointing to come home with only two points, but we'll take those two points and move on."

Hyvarinen - who added two helpers to bring his weekend total to eight points - currently sits atop the AJHL scoring race with 42 points (20 goals, 22 assists) in 26 games. And following a shorthanded tally in the lone road win against Sherwood Park on Sunday, which coach Miller calls the turning point of the game, the Eagles' captain now leads the AJHL in shorthanded goals with three.

"Andy excelled all weekend long," Miller said. "I know other teams specifically look to shut down our first line, so for Andy to play like he did says a lot about his effort. He had to play through a lot of tough checking this weekend."

Gvora, who once suited up for the Mississauga Ice Dogs of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) was brought to Canmore primarily for his offensive upside; however, the 6-2, 195-pound Thunder Bay, Ont. native had struggled within unfamiliar surroundings by scoring only twice in his first 20 games as an Eagle. But the 2006-07 Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL) most valuable player now has five goals in his last six games.

"Gvora's a big man, and sometimes it takes those big guys longer to get going," Miller said. "For him, I'm sure some of it has to do with coming to a new league and a new community, but now that we're two months into the season, he will be expected to contribute offensively on a more consistent basis. He's no stranger to contributing offensively. Other than his time spent in the OHL, I'm sure he's always been looked upon as a go-to guy."

After racking up 43 goals, 64 assists for 107 points in 43 games in the SIJHL for the Thunder Bay Bearcats last season, Gvora admits his offensive breakthrough this year was a long time coming. He gives full credit to his wingers Jori Dean and Michael Hartviksen - the latter a former major midget linemate in Thunder Bay.

"It's a start," Gvora said of his latest offensive outburst. "It could still be a lot better, but it's nice to finally start scoring again. I think Dean, Harv (Hartviksen) and I are starting to click. Dean was a really good pick-up, and Harv is playing his best hockey of the year.

"It might have been a confidence thing," he added, as to why the puck was not finding the back of the net for him earlier this season. "Coming here to a new league with a new team and playing against new teams can be a struggle. But sometimes the puck just doesn't go in for you. Hopefully the puck keeps going in for me, because I'm here to contribute. I came here to win."

Next up for the Eagles is the first game of a home-and-home series with South Division rival Brooks Bandits this Friday (Nov. 16) at the Rec Centre. The Bandits, which trail the Eagles by a single point in the division standings, will look to halt a season-high four-game losing skid. Puck drops at 7:30 p.m.

Two minutes in the box

• Banff rookie defenceman Colton Semenok, 16, boarded his first bus trip as an Eagle this season. Semenok played a regular shift in the first two road games against the St. Albert Steel

(Nov. 9) and Spruce Grove Saints (Nov. 10). "He played admirably," Miller said. "For a 1991-born player, he's a pleasant surprise. He not only filled the void we have on defence right now because of injuries, but he played some solid hockey."

• Rookie forward Jared Wynia made his return to the Eagles' line-up in Saturday's 5-3 loss to Spruce Grove. Wynia had been missing from action since Sept. 29 due to a knee injury.

• Eagles' playmaking forward Scott Hudson picked up four more

helpers over the three-game weekend and now leads the entire AJHL in assists with 24 to his credit. Hudson currently sits eighth in the AJHL with 34 points in 26 games.

• Rookie defender Spencer Wells, 18, was released by the Eagles

last week. The 6-5, 225-pound Wells

had zero points and 18 penalty minutes in the 10 games he dressed this


• Out with one blueliner and in with another. Veteran Eagles defenceman Tom Durnie, out with a broken wrist since Oct. 19, was back practicing with the team on Monday (Nov. 12), wearing a playing cast. Durnie has set the Eagles' home contest against the Camrose Kodiaks on Nov. 24 as a hopeful return.

• The Eagles have been enjoying a much-improved power play as of late. Once owners of the worst power play in the entire AJHL, the Eagles have struck with the man advantage in seven straight games. They went four for 17 in the trio of games up north.

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