Top Two Teams Battle for Division
Grande Prairie Athletics (5-0-0) 1st in West vs Dawson Creek Canucks (4-2-0) 2nd in West
The season didn’t start exactly how the Dawson Creek Canucks would have liked. With losses to both the Hythe Mustangs and Fort St. John Flyers there were some early season questions and what looked like a feeling out process for some of the new faces on this years roster. 18 goals against in two straight losses the Canucks looked for answers and preached a stronger approach to team defense. Since then and after winning four straight the Canucks have given up just 13 goals in their last 4 games and to no surprise have responded with four straight wins putting them in second place in the ultra competitive West division of the NPHL.
The only team ahead of them…the Grande Prairie Athletics.
Grande Prairie has had the start most teams set out for. A perfect 5 and 0 on the season has them sitting in first place not only in the West but the NPHL as well. Similarly to last season the A’s have done it in both ends of the rink. With 40 goals scored already this season the team is averaging 8 goals a game giving up 3.5.
Something has to give.
The Big Story: In typical Dawson Creek/Grande Prairie fashion you should almost expect a one goal game between both these clubs. If you’ve followed the match ups between these two teams at all the past few seasons it would be hard pressed to find many games that were decided by a goal or more and one shouldn’t expect much difference heading into tonights matchup between the two. An anomaly of sorts, December 6th last year was a rare exception as the Athletics beat up on the Canucks by a 10 – 2 final.
Despite going 3-0-1 against the Canucks last year three of those four games were decided by 2 goals or less.
Team Scope:Grande Prairie’s offense has been scoring by committee thus far this season. The line of Shane Mudryk, Andrew Buote and Grant Rix exploded in a big way in the last 9 to 4 win over Hythe combining for 13 points. With a hat trick in their last game Buote has taken over the goal scoring lead for the A’s with 8 but rookie Adam Boytinck continues to lead in overall scoring with 12 points in 5 games.
In Dawson Creek a bigger surprise is not to see Chris Stevens leading the Canucks in scoring, so far this season he has 1 assist in 3 games played. That hasn’t slowed the Canucks offense one bit however as a deeper lineup has punched a few more goals into the back of the net. Mike Lalonde and Jeff Taylor lead the Canucks with 12 points in 5 games while Kris Desjarlais and Adam Loncan follow with 4 points. Former Athletics defensemen Andrew Derton rounds out the top five with 8 points in 5 games.
The game could come down to each clubs special teams. The Canucks sit second in powerplay percentage with the A’s sitting second in penalty killing at a whopping 95%. On the flip side of that the Athletics powerplay has come to life with 9 goals in 30 chances while the Canucks PK is puttering along at 74%.
Outlook:After a slow start in their last win over Hythe the Athletics will need to be focused and ready to face a hungry Dawson Creek team. Following their two losses to start the season the Canucks have gained a lot of confidence and are anticipating Thursday nights matchup. In four of five wins thus far for Grande Prairie they have managed to score first and will look to do the same with hopes of improving their record to 6 and 0.
The Opposition Outlook:
Sr. Canucks Hosting Movember Game
Game time is set for 8:30pm at the Memorial Arena in Dawson Creek.
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