The Drumheller Dragons have officially won their first playoff series against the Calgary Canucks.
Versatility and control are what Dragons head coach Kevin Hasselberg attributes their success to.
“Playoffs is all about controlling the rollercoaster ride and you don’t want to get on that ride and get too high or get too low,” said Hasselberg. “We’ve certainly been challenged with a lot of different scenarios in the first three games of the series and obviously Sunday night’s result is what we are very happy with and the effort that was brought forth by our players.”
On Thursday, March 8, the opening match to the series took place at the Drumheller Memorial Arena where the Dragons won 6 – 3.
The game started off with a bang as the Canucks scored 34 seconds in. Slater Dykema, assisted by Brett Edwards and Dawson Bruneski scored off the power play to quickly tie the game. Tyler Kreklewich was assisted by Alex Rotundo and Bradley Stonnell to claim another power play point shortly afterward.
Goals were accompanied by a number of penalties for roughing, hooking, cross-checking, and slashing from either side in the first.
Rotundo, assisted by Dykema scored the Dragons’ third goal nearly five minutes into the second period.
The Canucks fought back by taking their second goal of the evening two minutes later.
The third period is where the Dragons’ hard work paid off, putting the nail in the coffin.
Kreklewich was rightfully named home star of the game for securing three goals, two of which were captured in the final period. Jordan Taupert also connected in the final period.
Both teams had 35 shots on net but the Canucks had better outcomes on the power play as they scored 2 out of 4 whereas the Dragons scored 2 out of 5.
Game 2 was held the next night on home ice and served as a humbling reminder of the unpredictability of hockey for the team.
After a back and forth point game, the Dragons let a goal slide into the net in the final minute of the third period. They were not able to bounce back in time to tie up the game. The Dragons lost 2 – 3.
Game 3 was held in Calgary at the Max Bell Centre on Sunday, March 11, where the Dragons learned from their mistakes, winning the game 8 – 1.
“It’s a momentum ride as much as anything and I think our players found that gear you need to compete within the playoffs on Sunday,” said Hasselberg. “It was definitely a learning lesson from Game 2 to Game 3 and then get the results that we had in Game 3 was something that I know the players were excited about.”
The Dragons scored three goals in the first period, one in the second, and then another four in the final period. Each period held at least six penalties between the two competitors.
“They travel together through highs and lows and that’s going to be the strength the team has when faced with all the different kinds of balls that are thrown our way,” said Hasselberg. “I guess the one thing that drives this hockey team is how together they are. They’ve created a brotherhood that’s going to certainly help them advance in the playoffs as far as they can.”
Game 4 was also held at the Max Bell Centre on Monday, March 12, where the Dragons came out on top winning 8 – 4.
Jordan Taupert assisted by Nate Keeley took the first goal of Period 1. Canucks scored an unassisted goal to tie the game.
The second period was where the Dragons shined the brightest. They scored 5 consecutive shots which the Canucks responded by taking one point off the team shortly after their streak.
Shot for shot action occurred in the third. The Canucks took the first and third goal of that period while the Dragons scored the second and fourth goals, totalling an accumulated final score of 8 – 4.
The Dragons will be facing off against the Brooks Bandits for round 2 of the playoffs. The Best of 7 series will begin this Friday, March 16 at 7:00 p.m. in Brooks. Followed by another away game the next day. The team will be at home for the second half of the series on Monday, March 19 and Tuesday, March 20 at 7:00 p.m.