By Terry Martin
The Spruce Grove Saints came into the 2022 AJHL playoffs the 1st seed in the north and their first opponent in the 2nd round is the Whitecourt Wolverines. The Saints received a 1st round bye after clinching 1st place in the North division with 97 points and 46 wins. The Wolverines just bounced the Bonnyville Pontiacs last week, who were the higher seed, winning the series 4 games to 2. The Saints won all but 1 game in the regular season against Whitecourt as they out scored the Wolverines 28-16. Tonight’s game marked the 1st time playoffs were played at the Grant Fuhr Arena in 2 years, as the Saints push to win their 6th AJHL Championship.
The Saints would come out of the gates flying, dominating puck possession through 10 minutes and picking up right where they left off. The Wolverines would battle back throughout the period but Tristan Martin would deny all the scoring opportunities he saw. The Saints would get a late power play in the period and would generate some great chances but the score would remain 0-0. Spruce Grove would lead 20-11 in shots after 20 minutes of play.
Cohner Saleski would be the one to open the scoring for the Wolverines with 14:23 left in the 2nd period. Tyler Mahan would then score on a breakaway 20 seconds later to put Whitecourt up 2-0. The Saints would then find themselves on their heels for a bit before regaining the momentum back. Spruce Grove would get 2 power play chances in a row but would solve Grimard later in the period. Jayden Davis would fire the puck glove side near the end of their last power play opportunity of the frame to put the Saints up on the board. The Saints would be down 2-1 after 40 minutes of play but would severely outshoot the Wolverines 38-15.
The Saints would capitalize early on the power play, scoring just 25 seconds into the period to tie the game 2-2. Chase Broda would regain the lead for the Wolverines as he would score on the power play just a couple minutes later. Brett Pfoh then pops the water bottle for another power play goal to tie the game 3-3 with 12 minutes left in the game. The teams would remain tied 3-3 heading into the 1st overtime period. The Saints would again dominate in shots after 60 minutes of play, 55-24.
The Saints would quickly take advantage of sudden death overtime, scoring just 5 minutes into the frame. Graeme Bryks would jam home the rebound in the crease to give the Saints a 1-0 series lead.
The Spruce Grove Saints and Whitecourt Wolverines are back at again for Game 2 Saturday night back at the Grant Fuhr Arena.