After a terrific weekend of games, the Dawson Creek Junior Canucks now find themselves just one point back of first place, and poised to rise to the top with a home and home series this weekend against the Beaverlodge Blades.
The Junior Canucks record improved to 4-3-0-1 after an exhilarating 13-5 victory over the Sexsmith Vipers and a very impressive 2-1 defeat of the previously undefeated Fort St. John Huskies. They have nine points, while the County of Grande Prairie JDA Kings and the North Peace Navigators both have 10 points with 5-2 records.
The Blades currently sit in last place with a record of 1-5, but they aren’t the same Beaverlodge team as in years past. They have former NHL player Phil Sykes as their new head coach, and have been fielding a competitive team, scoring plenty of goals each game. The Blades have 21 goals through six games, three more than the defending Fairview Flyers have after five games.
“They’re very quick and got good skaters. It takes everybody time to come together, and they’re going to be tough games there’s no doubt about it,” said Canucks head coach Gene Cooper about the upcoming games versus the Blades.
Cooper is hopeful that his team can rattle off a couple wins, and add to their win streak, which currently sits at three games. After a tough start to the season, which saw the Canucks lose three in a row, they now seemed to have righted the ship.
“The small things are starting to pay off. There is more puck support, and they are playing tighter through the neutral zone and making it harder for the other teams to attack,” said Cooper.
He said that this season was a tough transition to start, as they had plenty of turnover and new additions. But new players Kole Comin, Dylan McCuaig and Liam Craig have helped bring experience to the room, and everybody is seeing the results and buying into the systems.
The Huskies game, though not a 13 goal affair, was especially noteworthy because of the Canucks’ poor record against the Huskies last year, and the Huskies strong start to this season.
“Tonight, we lost momentum for a while, and to try and maintain that momentum and get it back again was tough, but they did it and that’s what matters,” said Cooper after the game against Fort St. John.
There are many players performing well right now for the Canucks, but three stand out in particular. Goalie Drew Friesen is on a bit of a roll, getting both wins on the weekend. Cooper said Friesen was sitting in the shadows while goalies Simon Bowyer and Nathan Sparks battled it out for the other goalie spot, but with the release of Sparks last week, Friesen got an opportunity to get in net and Cooper said they are going to let him run with it.
Winger Wesley Shipton is the talk of the league right now, leading the NWJHL in points with 19. He scored five goals on Oct. 13 against the Vipers, and added a crucial assist against the Huskies.
Cooper spoke to how dangerous Shipton is on the ice, but also spoke highly of Dustin Bahm, who is second on the team with 15 points and has 13 assists.
“He’s a smart player, reads the play well and now he’s starting to move the puck well because he sees that he’s having success,” Cooper beamed.
The first game against the Blades is in Dawson Creek on Oct. 20 at 8 pm.