By Mitch Goldenberg, Spruce Grove Examiner/Stony Plain Reporter
When the Saints begin to march, they are a tough bunch to stop. The Camrose Kodiaks and Calgary Canucks learned that lesson the hard way last weekend as Spruce Grove nabbed two big wins in Alberta Junior Hockey League action.
On Friday night, the Saints avenged two early-season losses to the league-leading Kodiaks with a rousing 4-3 shootout win, while Sunday’s matinee was over within 20 minutes from puck drop as the Saints rode four first period goals en route to an 8-3 victory over Calgary.
“It felt like we had everybody going this weekend and that’s what you need,” said head coach Jason McKee after the perfect weekend. “As a group we seem to be getting better from game to game, we believe in what we’re doing.”
The Saints entered Friday’s showdown with Camrose on a three game winning streak and in sole possession of first place in the AJHL North. But Spruce Grove had twice shown they were not quite good enough to beat Camrose in the young season.
The Kodiaks notched two consecutive one-goal victories over the Saints in late September, and jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first half of Friday night’s clash. 18-year-old winger Jake Mykitiuk found the net to cut the lead to 2-1, but the Kodiaks regained a two-goal lead before the second period came to an end.
“They’re an older, stronger team that comes at you hard and has great goaltending,” McKee said of the Kodiaks. “But the guys stayed within our framework and stuck to our game plan.”
The Saints came out blazing in the third period, tying the game after back-to-back goals from Jack Hamly and Josh Harris to send the game to extra time. Overtime solved nothing as the game extended to a shootout to settle the extra point.
Brett Zarowny was a perfect 13-for-13 in the Saints’ net since replacing Tanner McCorriston in the Saints net in the second period, and then stopped all four Kodiak shooters in the shootout. After the Saints missed their first three attempts, Mykitiuk found the back of the net to give the team a gritty 4-3 victory.
“I kind of just closed my eyes and shot to be honest,” said Mykitiuk of his shootout winner “We fought hard for that win, it felt really good.”
On Sunday, the Saints hosted the middle-of-the-pack Canucks and gave them a taste of what its like to play the defending champs when they are riding a hot streak. The win was never in doubt as Zarowny picked up his second straight victory in the Saints’ crease, allowing three goals on 22 shots.
“I liked our speed and tenaciousness,” coach McKee said of the winning effort. “Offence comes from having the puck, and in order to have it you have to win battles, and once you do that, you can allow your skill to take over.”
The Saints offence did just that on Sunday afternoon as Mykitiuk notched another four points and four other players picked up three points, including the team’s leading scorer Jarid Hauptman.
“Everyone’s buying in… we’re working hard in practice and there were a lot of things that helped us flourish this weekend,” said Hauptman, who is tied for third place in league scoring with four goals and 16 assists in just 15 games.
“The wins build confidence for our younger guys, and we’re starting to see where we are and what we can do.”
The Saints will play their next three games on the road before returning to Grant Fuhr Arena on Sat. Oct. 25 to face Grand Prairie.