Over 1,600 Grizzlys fans experienced exciting Junior A hockey action this past weekend as the Boys in Black and Gold split their home opener series against the Spruce Grove Saints and Canmore Eagles.
Fans got their first taste of regular season action for the 2012-2013 season Friday evening as Spruce Grove came down to the Grizz Den. This high-paced, action-packed game opened with the Saints scoring two quick goals in just over 5 minutes to take an early 2-0 lead (Soucey from Richard/McAndrews and Huculak from Soucey/Nolte). The Grizzlys rattled off their home opener jitters and fired one back immediately as Captain Bart Moran notched the first goal of the season assisted by Chris Stachiw and Dylan Hubbs. In this see-saw battle, the Saints responded (Hickey unassisted) to take a 3-1 lead at the halfway point of the opening frame. The Grizzlys replied with a goal from Mitch Owsley at 13:18 assisted by Hubbs and Moran to head into the second period down 3-2.
Both teams settled down in the second which featured only one goal, that coming from Moran for his second on the night assisted by Owsley and Hubbs. With the score tied 3-3, the Saints opened this scoring in the third period 3:28 in (Spurrell from Soucy). The Grizzlys answered back two minutes later on the powerplay (Stachiw from Lucas Grundy and Brandon Clowes) to tie the game at 4. Spruce Grove took the lead again at 11:24 (Nolte from Huculak) to take a 5-4 lead. With the crowd on the edge of their seat, the Grizzlys made a desperate attempt to tie the game with under a minute left only to come up short with a couple of spectacular saves by Saints goalie Dasan Sudora.
Grizzlys backstops Brandan Thiessen finished the game with 23 saves on 27 shots and Ethan Jemieff had one save on two shots before having to leave the game to injury. Saints goalie Sudora finished with 22 saves on 26 shots. Grizzlys Captian Bart Moran lead the way two goals and an assist to earn Player of the Game while Hubbs tallied 3 assists, Stachiw with a goal and assist, and Owsley with two helpers.
Saturday night featured a better result for the Grizzlys as the Canmore Eagles soared into town. Another large crowd of over 700 got to see the first win of the regular season as the Grizzlys defeated Canmore 5-2.
The opposing team once again opened the scoring at the 12:57 mark of the first (Hoekstra from Wilson). Moran capped his third in two nights from Hubbs and Owsley under a minute later to see the end of the first tied 1-1. The Grizzlys woke up from hibernation in the second period potting three goals and not allowing any to take a 4-1 lead going into the final frame (Clowes shorthanded from Tanner Dunkle/Taylor Bilyk, Landon Viveiros from Owsley/Spencer Dorowicz, and Taylor Bilyk unassisted). The third period saw each team exchange a goal each to cap off a 5-2 victory for the Grizz (Blair Oneschuk unassisted)
Brandan Thiessen bounced back with a dominating performance stopping 38 of 40 shots fired at him and Clowes earned Player of the Game honors. The game featured rookie Oneschuk pot his first AJHL goal in his second game, Viveiros get his first as a Grizzlys, while Owsley capped off another two assist night. The game also featured steady defenceman Taylor Bilyk notch his first goal of the season to go along with an assist for a gritty two point effort. Last season, Bilyk did not score a goal until the final regular season game.
The Grizzlys will head on the road for the next two weeks starting in Calgary with the Mustangs on the 13th and then to Brooks on Friday the 14th to try and spoil their home opening party as the Bandits will raise the banner as AJHL Champs from the prior season. The road trip continues on the 19th against the Canucks in Calgary, the 21st in Bonnyville, and finish off the 22nd in Lloydminster.
The Grizzlys would like to thank all the fans who attended home opener weekend and helped create a wonderful atmosphere. The weekend saw Eric Olsen win $1,000 as the first cash calendar winner and our first qualified contestant in the Shoot to Win contest for a brand new holiday trailer sponsored by Woody’s RV, Rock 104.5, 96.5 All Hit Country, and the Olds Grizzlys.
The next Grizzlys home game will feature the Battle of the Bears as the Camrose Kodiaks make their way to the Grizz Den on Monday, September 24th. Season tickets are still available at the Grizzlys Office.