The St. Albert Steel resume play after the all-star break in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with home games this weekend against north division teams.
The Steel host the seventh-place Lloydminster Bobcats (16-28-1-6) Friday and the first-place Spruce Grove Saints (42-4-1-3) Saturday at 7 p.m. at Performance Arena. Led by St. Albert product and all-star centre Nate Fleming (22-36-58 in 50 games), the Saints are ranked first overall in the Canadian Junior Hockey League.
With nine games remaining before the playoffs the Steel play six times at home.
The last game for the Steel was Thursday’s 6-3 loss in Grande Prairie against the AJHL champion Storm (35-14-1-2). St. Albert is 5-4-0-1 in its last 10 games.
In the race for fifth place in the north, the sixth-place Steel (21-25-1-4) are six points back of the Bonnyville Pontiacs (25-25-2-1) with two games in hand.
Meanwhile, right-winger Bryce Williamson and centre Reed Linaker contributed offensively to the north’s 14-9 win over the south at Saturday’s all-star game at Fort McMurray. Williamson, 20, tallied once and added three assists. Linaker, 18, scored the game’s last goal after picking up two assists.
In league scoring Williamson (35-54-89 in 51 games) is third and Linaker (31-37-68 in 49 games) is tied for seventh. Williamson is also four goals shy of 100 with the Steel. In four AJHL seasons his career totals include 103 goals, 129 assists and 232 points in 215 games.
Despite one of the most disappointing seasons in team history, the St. Albert Merchants are still in the playoff hunt in the Capital Junior B Hockey League.
The Money Men (10-24-0-2) are hanging on to the sixth and last playoff spot in the west division by one point over the last-place West Edmonton Wild (8-22-0-5). The Wild have three games remaining in the season and the Merchants play their last two games this weekend. They host the fourth-place Spruce Grove Regals (17-17-0-2) Friday at 8 p.m. at Akinsdale Arena. The last game is Sunday versus the rival Morinville Jets (20-14-0-1) at 2 p.m. at the Ray McDonald Sports Centre.
The Merchants are coming off a 7-1 loss to the second-place North Edmonton Red Wings (25-9-0-2) last weekend at Akinsdale. The penalty-filled affair included 22 St. Albert infractions for 71 minutes and 18 Red Wings’ infractions for 71 minutes. The game deteriorated into a mess of penalties in the third period. The Red Wings capitalized four times on the power play in the rout.
It was 4-0 Red Wings when Ryan Creelman of the Merchants scored his 10th of the season 38 seconds into the third on the power play.
The loss was the fourth in a row and the sixth in eight games in January. St. Albert’s home record is 3-14-0-1.