Friday, February 17, 2012

Lloydminster Bobcats 2 at Camrose Kodiaks 4 (AJHL) - February 16, 2012


Camrose is a small town about an hour southeast of Edmonton. My father was born in nearby Rosalind (pop. 190) and my grandmother lived in Daysland (pop. 807) so Camrose (pop 17, 236) is the big city in the area. While I was growing up in Ottawa, I visited the area a few times but had only been back once since moving to Japan. I was really looking forward to returning, even if just for a day, to see how things in this area have changed. Much to my surprise, the hockey gods had scheduled an Alberta Junior Hockey League game the same night with the Camrose Kodiaks hosting the Lloydminster Bobcats. So after spending the day touring the area and visiting family, I headed over to the Edgeworth Centre to add another league to my list.

Junior A Hockey

Hockey in Canada is extremely well organized. Most fans know about major junior, which includes the 3 leagues (WHL, OHL, QMJHL) that play under the umbrella of the Canadian Hockey League and from which many NHLers are drafted.

Of course, there are dozens of levels below major junior, with Junior A being the highest. There are ten Junior A leagues run by the Canadian Junior Hockey League, with the AJHL being one of them. These leagues are not considered professional, so players that want to play in the NCAA often choose this route rather than major junior.

Hockey at this level is played in very small communities such as Camrose, and going to the arenas is as much a social activity as it is a spectator one. It is really the grassroots of hockey in Canada and something that any sports fan should see when they have a chance.

Edgeworth Centre


The Edgeworth Centre is a new venue that was opened in 2007 as an addition to the old rink that was constructed in 1966. The entire facility consists of three hockey rinks, a curling rink, a fitness center, and an aquatic centre, making it more than just a spectator spot. The Kodiaks play in the EnCana arena, which is the main venue.


There are a number of interesting features here. First is that when the rink is not in use, the concourse above the seating bowl is used as a running track (the blue floor below). Five laps equal 1 km and provides an easy way to stay fit in the cold Camrose winter.


The benches are surrounded by high walls, which I have never seen before. It does mean the seats right behind the bench provide a unique view as you can look directly down at the players.


Near the entrance to the rink is a small display with pictures of Kodiak players who have made the jump to the NHL (Mason Raymond the most notable; he was the league MVP in 2004-05) as well as list of those who had been drafted over the past eleven years.


Camrose was also host to the Viking Cup, a now-defunct tournament that featured Canadian university teams against European squads. There is a room that has photos of NHLers who played in the Viking Cup, including current Ranger netminder Henrik Lundqvist who was the MVP in 2000.


The seating bowl here is quite steep, which I prefer as it gives a better view of the action without having the glass be a distraction. There are two upper decks here as well.


Despite being a small-town venue, the Edgeworth Centre is far more impressive than one would expect. The hockey history here is very interesting and if you are ever doing an Alberta hockey road trip, put Camrose on the list of places to visit.

The Game

The AJHL season is drawing to a close and both teams have clinched playoff spots, so there wasn't much on the line. Camrose lost the championship final last season and were still a strong team this year with a 31-21-5 record to lie 2nd in the South Division while the Bobcats were 33-12-8, good for 3rd in the North.


Lloydminster (in white) attacked immediately off the opening faceoff and were rewarded with a penalty shot that Presten Kopeck (#12 below) converted just 30 seconds into the game. That was the highlight of the first period, as the remaining 19:30 was dull, with neither team generating any real chances.


In the second, Bobcat agitator Issac Berglund (below) was called for a cross-checking penalty and tried to goad Nelson Gadoury into a fight by dropping his gloves and punching him. Gadoury didn't react and Berglund was assessed a second roughing minor and a misconduct. Camrose converted on both power plays to take a 2-1 lead and when Gadoury added another at the midway point, the game was in their control.


Berglund played a final shift in the period and was flattened by a beautiful open-ice hit. Berglund was so woozy that he couldn't stand up properly, but he still managed to start the third period.


The Bobcats notched a shorthanded goal in the final frame to make things exciting but couldn't get the tying marker past Matthew Gibney and Camrose clinched the affair with an empty netter, also shorthanded.


Overall, not a particularly intense game with special teams being the difference. Camrose only managed 19 shots and were fortunate that Berglund committed that extra penalty.

Notes

Sam Jardine of the Kodiaks was drafted by the Blackhawks in the 6th round in 2011. He was certainly better than most of the other players but needs a lot of seasoning. He'll be attending Ohio State from this fall, so I'll be following to see how he does over the next couple of years.


Thanks to Grant for taking me around the Edgeworth Centre and assisting me with the tickets. Thanks to Debbie and family for the great home-cooked meal, a welcome change from fast food.

Next Up

I'm in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan! We checked out a Blades game last night and are off to some university sports tonight. Check back for updates on those tomorrow.

Best,

Sean

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