A week into the 2017-18 AJHL season, the new look Olds Grizzlys are already riding a wave of momentum.
The Grizz dropped their first two games, but won games Sunday and Tuesday night to draw back to .500.
Their first victory, a feisty affair against the Calgary Canucks, featured a 7-5 final score and 15 game misconducts assessed with one second remaining.
As forward James Orban explains, it all began with a slash by Grizzlys d-man Austin Pickford.
“That just created a bunch of chaos. Guys started grabbing each other and next thing you knew, gloves and helmets were off,” he said. “The goalies were waving to each other and met up in the neutral zone and they started throwing and next thing you know there’s four pairs fighting on the ice and we got a line brawl.”
In addition to the misconducts, eight fighting majors, one slashing major and three more minor penalties were doled out to end the contest and there had already been 36 minutes in minors assessed earlier in the game.
The AJHL came down hard on both teams with the following suspensions:
Spencer McHardy (2 games + 1 game for removing helmet)
Jack Berger (2 games)
Austin Pickford (2 games for slashing major)
Goalie Andrew Henderson (3 games + 1 for removing helmet)
Coach Adam Redmond (1 game)
Kyler Newman (2 games)
Cooper Johnson (2 games)
Goalie Ben Laidlaw (3 games + 1 for removing helmet)
Coach Colin Birkas (1 game)
The bans left Olds with even fewer regular roster players than what they had before the game against the Canucks. For their game Tuesday versus the Brooks Bandits, eight veterans were out of the lineup due to injury or suspension, according to Orban. However, that didn’t stop them from pulling out a 3-1 home ice win.
“We beat the defending champs without half our roster almost, which is pretty exciting for us as an organization,” he said, adding it’s been an adjustment with all the changes to ownership, as well as the management and coaching staff. “It’s big for us to have a big turnaround season. I think we've got the manpower to do it.”
As for the fans, who numbered 400+ for the home opener last Friday, Orban knows there’s one thing the team has to keep doing.
“We've got to keep winning and make them want to come back,” he said.
“It’s a super exciting brand of hockey and if you want to have a good night with the family, it’s easy to come on down to Olds and watch the game there,” added forward Ryley Smith. “I feel like this is the best team we've had in my three years here.”
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