The Spruce Grove Saints take a 3-1 lead into the Alberta Junior Hockey League Enerflex Cup final series tonight at Grant Fuhr Arena against the visiting Camrose Kodiaks.
The Saints have eight players back from last year’s team which bowed in a seven-game Doyle Cup series to the BCHL champion Vernon Vipers.
Ranked No. 1 in the country after a superb 52-4-1-3 regular season, the Saints have lost just once in the playoffs.
Winger Tim Nolte scored twice as the Saints erased a 3-1 deficit and clipped Camrose 5-4 before 1,922 fans Tuesday night at the Edgeworth Centre.
Michael Claffey, Dylan Richard and Josh Koper also supplied goals for Spruce Grove, while Tyler Jewitt, Craig Bokenfohr, Brooks Myers and Sam Jardine replied for the Kodiaks.
Camrose hosts the Royal Bank Cup, April 30-May 10, so get in the nationals win or lose in the Enerflex Cup. If the Kodiaks rally to take the AJHL title, the Vipers would receive an automatic entry into the RBC.
The Doyle Cup regional series starts next Friday at Wesbild Centre. Game 2 also goes Saturday in Vernon. If one team sweeps the games, the rest of the series will be played in Alberta. If the teams split the opening games, Game 3 goes in Vernon.
The Saints’ top point-getter this year in the regular season was 20-year-old defenceman Felix-Antoine Poulin, with 27-34-61.
Koper, who had nine goals last year, was second with 30-27-57. Former Viper Brett Switzer, who was injured in the Doyle Cup last year, racked up 25-26-52 to sit fourth in Saints’ scoring this year.
Switzer, who was obtained in a three-way deal which brought Bryce Kakoske to the Snakes three years ago, is committed to the NCAA Bentley Falcons in Watertown, Mass. for next season.
All-star goalie Vincenzo Marozzi, 21, is among the Saints’ returnees. He was 33-5-4 with a 1.65 GAA. The Saints allowed a league-best 99 goals against while averaging 4.2 goals a game, also tops.