Given a lineup full of key returning players, a solid preseason and some high profile signings, there were a lot of reasons for optimism heading into the 2021-2022 season for the St. James Jr. Canucks. The team is chasing its first MMJHL Championship since the 1997-1998 season.
The journey started at home against the Raiders Junior Hockey Club on Sept. 24.
It was an up-and-down affair for the Canucks, who found themselves trailing 4-3 after two periods despite heavily outplaying the Raiders. Thanks to a flurry of goals in the third, however, the Canucks would skate away with a 7-4 victory on opening day.
Matthew Mason-Vandal (1G 2A) led the charge for the Canucks, recording all three of his points in the final frame. Veteran forward Trent Halfdanson (2A) and defenceman Rory Neill (1G 1A) also had multi-point games.
Dylan Morden, Kale Price, Griffin Haight, Troy Borthistle and Graeme Shingleton also scored in the victory. Noah Gilbert picked up the win.
The Jr. Canucks continued their opening weekend at Keith Bodley Arena when they hosted the Pembina Valley Twisters in an afternoon matchup on Sunday, Sept. 26.
It was a close game between two very good teams, but unfortunately for the Canucks, the Twisters were able to gain the edge and win 5-4 in a shootout.
Second-year forward Tyrone Willan had a goal and an assist in the loss, Rory Neill scored in his second straight game, and Zachary Greenwood and Griffin Haight both lit the lamp.
The loss dropped the Canucks record to 1-0-1.
The Jr. Canucks began the month of October with more fireworks in a 6-5 shootout win over the Stonewall Jets on Friday, Oct. 1.
Troy Borthistle scored the shootout winner in the 13th round and Noah Gilbert grabbed his second win of the season in net.
The Jr. Canucks got points from 12 different players in the victory, with defenceman Brady Whitely leading the way with two helpers.
Kale Price, Brandon Hughes, Griffin Haight, Ashton Romaniuk, and Dylan Morden were the goal scorers.
The Jr. Canucks then continued their opening stretch back home against the Ft. Garry/Ft. Rouge Twins.
It was a tight-checking game with two stellar goaltending performances. Despite a strong push in the third period, the Jr. Canucks lost 2-1.
Tyrone Willan scored the only goal for the Jr. Canucks, with Kale Price and Brady Whitely getting the assists.
Noah Gilbert played very well, stopping 36 of 38 shots.
The Jr. Canucks then wrapped up their first stretch of the season with a pre-Thanksgiving weekend matchup against the St. Vital Victorias.
The Jr. Canucks would go to extra time for the third time in five games, ultimately falling 4-3 to the Vics.
Newcomer Ashton Romaniuk picked up his second goal in two games since joining the Canucks. Griffin Haight and Kurtis Luke added goals in the loss as well.
The Jr. Canucks record is now 2-1-2.
Chalk Talk Three Stars:
3 – Matthew Mason-Vandal – Mason-Vandal is humming along at a point-per-game clip early in the season, with a goal and four assists in five games.
2 – Brady Whitely – Whitely has been one of the top two-way defencemen in the league since he joined as an under-ager two seasons ago. He continued to show that, playing well defensively and putting up four assists in five games.
1 – Griffin Haight – Haight is off to a torrid start this year, with four goals and an assist in five games.
The Jr. Canucks kick off their next stretch of games with a back-to-back weekend set. On Saturday, Oct. 16 they take on the Riels at Southdale Arena, and on Sunday they will head to Terry Sawchuck Arena to face the River East Royal Knights.