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Dragons crush Canucks in first playoff game

Canucks goalie Kolby Matthews, 30, anticipates the incoming offence Drumheller Dragons defenseman Troy Dudley, 17, and forward Slater Dykema, 11. Calgary Canucks defenseman Brody Medeiros, 2, and centre player Zach Webb, 25, were hot on their trail to intercept the potential goal. The Dragons ultimately won the game 6 – 3. Mailphoto by Terri Huxley

The Drumheller Dragons have officially set the tone for the post season playoffs last night, Thursday, March 8, with a 6 – 3 win over the Calgary Canucks in front of an energetic crowd of 665 fans.
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 afterwards.
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.
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 plays as they scored 2 out of 4 whereas the Dragons scored 2 out of 5.
The Dragons play again tonight, March 9 at home for Game 2 of the 5 game series.

Photo Above: Canucks goalie Kolby Matthews, 30, anticipates the incoming offence Drumheller Dragons defenseman Troy Dudley, 17, and forward Slater Dykema, 11. Calgary Canucks defenseman Brody Medeiros, 2, and centre player Zach Webb, 25, were hot on their trail to intercept the potential goal. The Dragons ultimately won the game 6 – 3. Mailphoto by Terri Huxley

Dragons win final regular season game

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    The Drumheller Dragons were ready for action this past weekend.
    On Friday, March 2 in Calgary, the Dragons swept up 5 points winning the game 5 – 2 against the Calgary Canucks.
    “I think our team has been phenomenal for the month of February and obviously the first weekend in March,” said Kevin Hasselberg, head coach of the Drumheller Dragons. “We’ve grown as a team all season and you want to be playing your best hockey when the next season approaches and that’s the playoffs. I think our group has accomplished that. Now it’s just a matter of maintaining and getting to the playoffs.”
    The first period saw the most action as three of those points were put on the scoreboard. The Canucks claimed one point. Penalties were divided equally between Dragons player Brayden Nicholetts for slashing and Canucks player Jaxon Steele for tripping.
    Dragons put another point on the scoreboard at 4:16 due to Brett Edwards efforts in the second period. Brady Risk and Bradley Stonnell assisted. As for penalties, both sides had a single two-minute penalty for roughing after the whistle.
    Alex Rotundo assisted by Joshua Laferriere and Jordan Taupert scored the Dragons fifth and final goal at 5:26 of the third period. The Canucks then scored their second goal of the evening at 6:42.
    Overall, the Dragons had one powerplay and 23 shots on net while the Canucks had two power plays and 19 shots on net.
    The next day, Saturday, March 3, the Dragons were back at home to faceoff against the Brooks Bandits. The long-standing feud between the rivals was prevalent on the ice as soon as warm-up began.
    “Proximity played a big part in that with Brooks being arguably one of our closest opponents when you look at the roadmap but I think there is a lot of history there even from previous coaches,” said Hasselberg. “I think a lot of things have evolved over the years creating that rivalry and once it’s there it doesn’t go away easily. [...] I think the fans have really embraced that as well.”
    Classified as a staged fight, Nic Hamre, of the Brooks Bandits and Kaden Hanas, of the Dragons duked it out during the first period. Both face an automatic three-game suspension for their actions as part of Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) regulations.
    “You have to walk that line and part of it is learning along the way but Kaden did what he had to do and what he felt was the right thing to do and it ended up being a momentum shifter for us as a hockey team,” said Hasselberg. “Unfortunately he has to suffer the consequences and our team has to suffer the consequences of not having him in the lineup but we will get through it and we are certainly proud of Kaden for his efforts.”
    Hasselberg credits the success to a positive frame of mind shared amongst the team.
    “I think our guys played as a team and they all shared a common vision and a common goal in that hockey game,” said Hasselberg. “You could tell from their body language to their competitiveness to the energy and enthusiasm on the bench that they wanted to be successful as a group and they stayed positive throughout the night regardless.”
    The Dragons were down two to one in the second period but that didn’t stop the local team from pushing harder.
    Tyler Kreklewich single-handedly scored Drumheller’s second point, creating a tie. Jordan Taupert assisted by Reese Jackson and Bradley Stonnell made the tiebreaker point. Neither side scored in the third period. The Brooks Bandits took 28 shots on net while the Dragons shot 29 on net.
     “[...] There was no panic on our bench,” said Hasselberg. “They rallied behind each other and scored the next two and obviously played extremely hard and that’s what we did to earn the win.”
    Billet families were recognized before the beginning of the game for their contribution throughout the season by hosting these men. 15 families host the 22 players from September until this April depending on how playoffs unfold.
    The Dragons host the Calgary Canucks for their first series of the postseason on Thursday, March 8. Five games with the best of three will determine who will move on to the next round of playoffs.

Dragons notch two solid wins

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    The Dragons are hoping to build momentum for the postseason.
    This comes after two solid wins versus northern division teams over the weekend at home. The Dragons topped the Spruce Grove Saints on Friday night, February 23, 3-2, and then trampled the Drayton Valley Thunder 9-2 on Saturday.
    “That is what it is about, you want to be peaking at the right time to finish off the season and I think our guys have done that,” said coach Kevin Hasselberg.  
    The Saints are in top spot in the Viterra AJHL North Division. It was the Dragons who had the jump Friday night as Brett Edwards opened the scoring 3:20 on the powerplay to take an early lead.  With about two minutes left in the period Brady Risk scored and then Andrew Kartusch made it 3-0 about 40 seconds later.
    The Saints didn’t go away and after a scoreless second period, they opened the third period with a goal. With two and half minutes left on the powerplay, the Saints pulled their goalie and made the score 3-2. This was as close as they could get as they held on for the win.    
    “We had a pretty good weekend, we knocked off the top team in the north in Spruce Grove,” said Hasselberg. They have a lot of talented players right from their goaltender out to the forwards. There is a big reason why they continue to be the class of the north when it comes to regular season standings.
    “The fact that we have been able to beat them three times this year is huge and should we have the opportunity to play them in the AJHL finals our guys should have some confidence, but that is a long ways away from now.”
    On Saturday the Dragons momentum continued and they came out flying with two goals from Alex Rotundo as well as one from Jordan Taupert and Slater Dykma put the Dragons up 4-0 in the first period. Tyson Scott scored early in the second followed by Edwards and Brady Nicholetts to end the second 7-0. Taupert scored his second before the Thunder made it onto the scoreboard. The Thunder added one more goal, but so did Derrick Budz as the Dragons went on to a 9-2 win.
    “The guys have been scoring a lot of goals in the last little bit and for us to put up nine against a team that has been playing very well, was gratifying,” said Hasselberg.
    The Dragons have just two more games before the end of the regular season and are sitting in third place in the Viterra AJHL South. the team is relatively healthy with a couple day-to-day injuries.
    “Coming out of the last two games of the regular season, you hope you get through them unscathed and be good for the playoffs,” said Hasselberg.

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