The first few games of the Big Six Hockey League are in the books, and with one result out of three games that would surprise most fans of the league.
Bienfait @ Arcola/Kisbey
At the end of 2018, the Coalers had started to push their way back up towards the top of the league after an early three game losing streak in their season, and the Arcola/Kisbey Combines left the year still searching for their first win of the season, and they were hoping to get their first over a team they haven't played yet this year.
After the first period, it looked like the Combines might have a shot as it each team would net a single goal, thanks to Dylan Herzberg for the Coalers and Lucas Hislop for the home team.
The second period is where the Coalers would shake off the rust just five minutes into the period, and almost solely thanks to Herzberg. The lone goal scorer for the Coalers would pot four more for the Coalers in the second, getting himself a hat trick and almost his second of the game, but either way Herzberg would bring a tie game after twenty to a 5-1 game after fourty all by himself.
5-1 Bienfait after two periods.
In the third, Herzberg's goal streak would be broken finally, but by his own team as Matt Bourassa would fire in a shot past Zack Eaton for the Coalers sixth of the game three minutes into the period. After that, Herzberg would complete the double hat-trick.
Tyson Hislop would cut in the lead for a moment, adding the second of the game for the home town Combines with just over three minutes to go, and as if it weren't enough, the Coalers would score one final tally to earn back the six point lead thanks to Levi Kress.
FINAL SCORE: 8-2 Bienfait
Kipling/Windthorst @ Carlyle
For the Kipling/Windthorst Oil Kings, the first half of the inaugural season in the Big Six has been one of ups and downs. They started their campaign without winning or losing consecutive games in their first six games before a four game losing skid would start.
The Carlyle Cougars on the other hand, they started the season playing more games than any other team and leading the league after the first half.
Despite the disparity in the stats, the Cougars and Oil Kings played one of the tightest games of the year earlier, a 5-4 victory for Carlyle with the shots being 34-30 in favour of the Cougars.
This game would be equally as competitive.
A name absent from the score sheet was Ben Johnstone, the league's leading scorer and the source of over a quarter of his team's goals. He was nursing a wrist injury that should be healing quickly. Nathan Deck was also playing his final game with the team before he leaves for Lacombe to fulfill a commitment with the team.
The comparisons continued into the first period when the Cougars would score first, just under halfway through the first period, as the Cougars would get a three on two chance as Brent MacLean brought the puck down the right side of the ice and cut to the corner to freeze the defender, drop the puck back for Cooper Fox, and he'd wire it under the blocker of Austin Toth and off the left post and in, giving the Cougars the 1-0 lead.
Shortly after the goal was scored, the Oil Kings would get an opportunity to strike back as they'd be given a four minute power play. Behind the play, Ty Currie would spear Sydney Kingdon at centre ice and he'd head to the box.
The power play would start strong, getting two chances early on but Landon Audet kept solid in net to keep the puck out. The Oil Kings would keep the cycle going for a while before the Cougars would press back, feeling more confident and pressing more and more.
The four minute penalty would end as the Cougars were in their own zone, and ill-advised line change would leave Brent Turgeon alone in his own zone with the puck and Carson Harcourt would pressure, turn the puck over, and send a picture perfect pass to Blake Nicholson's stick that waited for the tip into the empty net behind a sprawling Audet, 1:41 left in the frame.
After one, 1-1.
The second period would boast more success for the Oil Kings, and again we'd have to wait until halfway through the period. The Cougars would pour shot after shot towards Austin Toth's net and get nothing, but Cayley Bjork would fire a shot at Audet's pad for what should be an easy save, but the puck somehow squirted through to right behind him and Brandon Munro's eye for the net would swat one handed at the puck to knock it in for the Oil Kings.
The Cougars would get their first power play chance after that, a high sticking call on Carson Harcourt. The Cougars would cycle and throw shots at and just wide of the net, the most prominent being a cross ice pass to a wide open Cooper Fox, and he blasted the puck passed the side of the net, just missing the open net as Toth sprawled across to make an impossible save he didn't need to.
So far, the only goals in the game were scored in the ninth and eighteenth minutes of the periods, and that tradition would continue. Matt Bean would break down the right side of the ice with a defender to beat, and he would try to make a move inside but get the puck shovelled off his stick into the corner. The Cougar's defender would turn around for the puck and head behind his own net, but Bean would chase after it and steal the puck back, then wrap around Audet in his crease and the puck would be past him before he even knew they turned it over, giving Bean the best solo effort of the game.
After two: 3-1 Kipling/Windthorst
The third period would be where Toth would put on a show. The Oil Kings had only 12 shots in the first two periods while Carlyle had 21, and the Oil Kings' goaltender would stop more and more shots including an outstanding slide across the crease to stick out the right pad and rob Mason Belanger.
But Toth couldn't stop everything.
Nathan Deck would get a turnover at centre ice with just under eight minutes left, and he would skate right down the centre of the ice between two defenders, and rather than try and get by them, he'd fire a laser of a wrist shot over Toth's glove and bring it back to within one.
The Cougars would continue the pressure, but their efforts would get some added difficulty when Deck would take an elbowing penalty with 2:14 on the clock. The penalty would get killed, helping kill the onslaught and the Oil Kings would hold on.
FINAL SCORE: 3-2 Oil Kings.
The Oil Kings snap a four game losing streak while also wrecking Carlyle's four game winning streak. Austin Toth faced 34 shots and stopped 32, good for a .941 save percentage.
Carnduff Red Devils @ Oxbow Huskies
Carnduff finished their half of the season as the team with the highest goals per game as well as the best goaltending numbers although they finished on a 2 game losing skid, while Oxbow has struggled to find their stride, losing five straight.
The first period would be a feeling out period for each team as they shook out the extra holiday weight, but with 52 seconds left, we would get our first goal. Mark Moriarty would manage to put a goal past Ethan Veroba and give the Carnduff Red Devils the first lead.
After that, the second would be a rapidly down hill period for the Huskies.
They would start off tying the game thanks to a goal from Corey Fitzpatrick, but from there, the Red Devils would fire back with a vengeance. Moriarty would add his second, followed by Jason Boyes, Cody Moore, and Nico Anderson.
After 2, 5-1 Carnduff
The third period wouldn't be too eventful scoring wise, although the penalties would start to rack up. In the entire game, 15 minor penalties would be handed out, and Oxbow's Reed Loucks would score on the power play, but that's as close as they'd get. Another insurance goal from Trevor Geiger would seal the deal in favour of the Red Devils.
FINAL SCOREL 6-2 Carnduff