WESTLOCK - Westlock’s U18-2 Warriors opened the 2022 portion of their Northern Alberta Interlock Hockey League schedule Saturday night with a big win over the league-leading La Crete Lumberjacks.
The Warriors and Lumberjacks were knotted at two after the first 20 minutes, then tied again 3-3 at the end of the second period. Coach Paul Olsen said the Warriors were finally able to break the deadlock with a goal from Jackson Rufiange with just under eight minutes to go to hand the Lumberjacks their second defeat of the year.
Olsen said La Crete has been running roughshod over the Tier 1/2 league and sat with an 8-1-1 record and 71-29 goal differential coming into the Jan. 8 game — La Crete rolled over the Warriors 10-4 back on Nov. 20, while dismantling the Barrhead Steelers 10-1 Jan. 7 in Barrhead and then drilling Athabasca 8-1 on Jan. 9.
But what impressed Olsen the most in the victory was the contributions up and down the lineup as all three lines chipped in for goals. And with Westlock slated to play host to the U18 Tier 2 Provincial Championships March 31 to April 3, the Warriors are going to need all their shooters hitting the mark. The Lumberjacks and Warriors will meet two more times this month, Jan. 22 in Westlock and then Jan. 30 in Slave Lake.
“Right from puck drop the boys were ready to play. We didn’t hang back and wait,” said Olsen the day after the game. “They worked as a team and we got contributions from everyone which was nice to see. That’s going to be the biggest thing for us going forward.”
Olsen said league play will determine who gets the zone berth to provincials and although as provincial hosts they have an automatic bid, they want to win the league title. With this victory the club now sits with a 4-3 record in the league.
“With this win we’ve beat all the Tier 1 teams and our goal is to win the league,” Olsen continued. “A lot of the boys haven’t had a chance to go to provincials so they don’t really realize what’s in store for them. It’ll be huge, especially with us hosting.”
This coming week the Warriors are in Athabasca Friday night, then return home Sunday, Jan. 16, to face Edson with puck drop slated for 2:45 p.m.
Senior Warriors also get a ‘W’
Meanwhile, Westlock’s Senior Warriors are now only a game under .500 in the North Central Hockey League after doubling the Bonnyville Pontiacs 8-4 Sunday afternoon.
The Jan. 9 road win, the club’s fourth in their last five games, has them sitting in sixth place at 4-5-0-1. The Fort Saskatchewan Chiefs are two points in front of the Warriors but have played two more games.
In Bonnyville, the Warriors pumped the Pontiacs with four-straight goals from Clayton Eisler, Zach Mills, Jake Chizma and Chris Brand to start the game. The Pontiacs got one back to start the second, which was quickly answered 26 seconds later with an unassisted marker from Kyle Dronyk. Eisler then netted his second of the night, which was followed by a single from Brett Kampjes before the Pontiacs netted two more to make the score 7-3 after 40 minutes.
In the third, Tyler Kampjes got the Warriors’ eighth of the night, while a reply from Bonnyville made the final 8-4 — goalie Jordan Brand turned aside 24 of the 28 shots he faced for the win.
The Warriors are home for their next three regular season games with the first slated for this coming Friday, Jan. 14, versus the Morinville Kings at 8:30 p.m. The following night, Jan. 15, the league-leading Lacome Generals will be in town for a 7:30 p.m. tilt, while Fort Saskatchewan comes to town Jan. 22.