During the 2018 NEAJBHL playoffs, the Cold Lake Ice upset and eliminated the St. Paul Canadiens in the first round. They came back from a deficit of three games to one to claim victory. But you wouldn’t know it watching the first game of the 2018-2019 regular season. The Canadiens hit the ice hard from the first minute and took control of the majority of the game. They won with a final score of 6-3. Special teams were a boon to the Canadiens who scored three of their six goals on the power play.
It took just six minutes for St. Paul to open up the scoring. The first goal of the night came off a beautiful play set up by Zach Bendall and Alexander Astasiewicz. On the power play, Astasiewicz got the puck in deep to Bendall, who banked a shot off of the right pad of Cold Lake netminder Matt Henwood. The puck came right to Orrie Wood, who fired a one-timer up over the blocker of Henwood. Wood is playing his first full season with the Canadiens since joining the team after the collapse of the Saddle Lake Warriors last year.
Moments after Wood’s opening goal, St. Paul veteran Dyson Roy had a beautiful chance to score on an unassisted breakaway. But his shot went high and wide, keeping the score at 1-0.
Another St. Paul Veteran, Brayden Goulet, made good on his goal-scoring halfway through the first period. A pass from Wood put him in perfect position to score, which he did to give the Canadiens a two-goal lead.
Shortly after Goulet’s goal, the Ice had a brilliant opportunity to put some points up when the Canadiens took three minor penalties in less than two minutes. But it wasn’t to be, as the Canadiens’ special teams shut down the Ice’s offense at every turn. But before the first period drew to a close, Conner Landry scored off a pass from Coltan Buchta to put the Ice back in the game and within a goal.
Two minutes into the frame, Wood scored the Canadiens’ third goal of the night in a manner nearly identical to his first goal. Wood’s early period-two goal put the Canadiens up 3-1.
Things got scrappy near the midway point of the period when Cold Lake’s Conner Landry cross-checked a St. Paul player in the head. Predictably, this elicited a quick and brutal response from the Canadiens players on the ice. Cold Lake responded in kind with plenty of pushing, shoving. and choice words. Landry was given a five-minute cross-checking major, a two-minute kneeing minor, and a game misconduct as a result. St. Paul managed to walk away with just a two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct minor for Roy.
The rest of the period saw a bit of back-and-forth between the Ice and the Canadiens. Out of the box, after his time was served, Roy scored once again for the Canadiens while they maintained a man-advantage. But Buchta refused to let the Ice fall too far behind, scoring a goal of his own minutes later to cut the Canadiens’ lead to 4-2. Braydon Burak answered back for the Canadiens with a nifty goal from behind the net. And, finally, Heath Green scored for the Ice in the dying seconds of the period to keep Cold Lake in contention with a 5-3 score at the intermission.
The Ice’s efforts to keep pace in the second period proved to be in vain. Their offense was virtually ineffectual against St. Paul. Roy scored again for the Canadiens; the lone goal in the third period. His goal brought the final tally to 6-3. Roy and Wood each had two goals and an assist on the night. Meanwhile, Buchta also had a three-point night for the Ice with a goal and two assists.
It was a night of doubles for the Canadiens. For every goal that Cold Lake scored, St. Paul scored two. And for every shot that Cold Lake took, St. Paul doubled down.
“I think what we showed tonight is the speed and skill we have on this team,” said Canadiens head coach Joe Young. “When you bring the intensity and work ethic like we had tonight. . . we’re gonna compete with anybody on any given night. I thought our special teams were outstanding. We had three power play goals and had to kill off two five-on-threes. Those are momentum builders. . . the kids worked hard at the end of the day and that’s what it took.”
“This was a great game,” said Scott Hood, head coach of the Cold Lake Ice. “I mean, we’re young. We’ve got some guys that have never played Junior B at all before. We made some mistakes that are easily corrected, and we battled hard. St. Paul’s a good team; they’re older and veteran-laden, and that’s a measuring stick for us. We want to get to that spot.”
The Ice faired much better during their second game of the weekend. They defeated the Vegreville Rangers 8-2 at home. Meanwhile, St. Paul fell to the ever-mighty Wainwright Bisons 5-3. The Ice will be back at home on Saturday, October 6 to host the Lloydminster Bandits. The Canadiens will also be at home this weekend. They’ll take on the Lac La Biche Clippers on Friday, October 5.