Colton Gies and Brett Norman each had two goals to lead the Dawson Creek Junior Canucks past the Sexsmith Vipers on Saturday at Memorial Arena and help the Canucks split this weekend’s two-game homestand.
After falling 7-2 on Friday to the NWJHL leading Grande Prairie JDA Kings, the Canucks bounced back the following night knocking off the Vipers 7-4.
“Our first period was pretty lackluster, and parts of the second, but we woke up and they just worked harder and executed better,” said head coach Eric Fulton following Saturday’s game where the Canucks trailed 3-1 early in the second before closing out the period with four straight goals en route to their twelfth win of the season.
“I was wondering how they [Sexsmith] might play under their new coach,” noted Fulton.
On Thursday, the last place Vipers announced that they had let go head coach Neil Magill and replaced him with Ron McMullan.
“That [a coaching change] can either spark a team or can pull them apart. I don’t think it did either, they didn’t come out any harder than we’ve seen them come out and I didn’t see anything different from them,” said Fulton.
However, goals from Jordon Nearing and Colby Klassen gave the Vipers an early 2-0 lead midway through the first period before Gies first of the night at 13:48 drew the Canucks to within one to close out the frame.
Austin Burton scored an unassisted marker a minute into the second period to regain Sexsmith’s two-goal lead. But the Canucks quickly went to work lighting up Vipers goaltender Matteo Santorelli with four unanswered goals.
Captain Riley Muise and Kyler Krantz connected with Brett Norman to begin the onslaught at 4:13 of the period.
Gies’ second of the night tied things at 3-3 six minutes in, and Spencer Gover and Kevin Hubert lit the lamp late in the period to put the Canucks up by two heading into the third.
Justin Greyeyes scored his twelfth of the season to start the final period and the Canucks never looked back. The Vipers would score one more before time was up but Norman’s second goal and sixth in seven games with the Canucks would seal it for Dawson Creek.
Canucks new goaltender, Justin Samra, brought in to replace injured David Readman, got his first win in net for the Canucks, stopping 29 of 33 shots.
With the victory over the Vipers, Dawson Creek improves to 12-13-0-2 on the season, giving them three wins in their last four matches since returning from Christmas break.
“We’ve had some guys pick up their play and in the last four it’s been much better,” said Fulton.
After scoring fewer than ten goals last month the Canucks have found their touch around the net scoring 23 goals in their last four games.
But for Muise, the Canucks’ captain, he says that with playoffs in sight, defence has to be in tune with the offence.
“We’ve had some good offfence lately but defence is first for sure,” said Muise who assisted on two goals against Sexsmith. “We have to focus more on our defensive zone. Hopefully we start getting it coming down the stretch. Once we get the D going the offence will come.”
While the Canucks have been able to find the back of the net since the second half of the season began, they’ve also allowed 28 goals, which can’t continue if they want to hold onto fourth place – or move up the standings – and earn home-ice advantage in the first round of the postseason.
“Hopefully we make a good run down the stretch,” said Muise. “It’s still regular season but this late in the season it’s basically playoff time now. Guys have to start playing like it’s playoffs.”