Up 3-0 after one in their last home game of the calendar year, it looked like the Dawson Creek Junior Canucks had an easy recipe for a win Friday night. But with the County of Grande Prairie JDA Kings getting within one with just over a minute left, and swarming all third period, the C’s managed to pull off a tight one 7-6.
“That was probably the first time they’ve played really close to 60 minutes all game. We had a couple of injuries, a couple of key guys out, and the young guys stepped up — some of the guys you don’t typically see on the scoresheet stepped up,” says GM Colby Wagar.
One of those players is Dex Elders, who put up a hattrick and an assist, and has six points between this game and the one the game before where the Juniors beat Sexsmith 5-3.
“Dex Elders has played absolutely fantastic the last three games, that’s some of the best hockey I’ve seen Dex play. He’s really motivated and he really gets the boys going. He had a good night the other night, he had a really good night tonight,” says Wagar.
“[He’s doing] all the small things, to be honest with you — keeping coverage on his man, he’s moving the puck really well, and he’s shooting. He just generates so much pressure down low, especially when they dump the puck in, he’s one of the first guys to the puck, if not the first guys, and he created turnovers all night.”
What’s been the key to his on ice success?
“I’m having more fun playing hockey, just going out there with more confidence and having a better time,” Elders admits.
He also scored the teddy bear toss goal, something he admits he was looking forward to — and beat another hopeful teammate to.
“It was like I woke up and I was determined to score and I got it done tonight, so it felt pretty good,” he laughs. “I know [Keenan Halverson] wanted it, but he didn’t get it — so maybe next year.”
Brandon Rowley also put up a good game, putting up three points for 39 points this season — a point in every game he’s played.
Harrison Tucker had his first two points as a Canuck, and Andrew Davidse had two assists as well.
Parker Gaudet scored his first goal in a Canucks jersey, while Nick VanderPloeg and Dylan McCuaig scored goals as well, while Halverson, Tim Zimmer, Ethan Buck, and Dustin Bahm each earned an assist.
The Junior Canucks were outshot 53-30 (the Kings particularly dominated the third, outshooting them 21-7), with Conor Webb making 47 saves.
Kings players ran into Webb hard just right as the clock stopped. It’s seemingly become a common occurrence in the last few games to see a Junior Canuck goaltender be on the receiving end of a serious run on the other team’s rush at some point in the game.
“That’s something that we discussed prior to the last couple of games, I mean it’s hockey, the boys come in hard all the time, everybody’s coming in hard at your goalies. Our boys are stepping up and ensuring that’s going to start to stop,” says Wagar. “I don’t have much to comment because I would hope that people don’t do that intentionally. I think it’s just the heat of the moment going in, and making sure they don’t do it anymore.”
The Junior Canucks will next play in Fort St. John this Wednesday in a rematch against the Huskies, and the last game of December. The C’s are 2-4 against FSJ, with the last two matchups losses. Puck drop is 8 pm at North Peace Arena.