Showcase sweep caps perfect opening month
Hockey: First place Okotoks Oilers improve to 7-0
Wednesday, Oct 04, 2017 06:00 am
The Okotoks Oilers can be forgiven for not wanting the calendar to turn.
Okotoks earned its fourth ever sweep of the Alberta Junior Hockey League Showcase to cap off a September to remember in polishing off seven-straight wins for the best start in the history of the organization.
“You never look too far ahead, but if you had asked me before the season started I wouldn’t necessarily have seen this happening,” said Oilers captain Carter Huber. “At the same time, we’re a really confident group, as a leadership group and coaching staff we all see the potential of this group.
“It’s exciting and we’re going to keep moving forward.”
The powerplay was front and centre to the team’s three wins in four days last week.
Okotoks went 3-for-4 on the man-advantage using powerplay markers from Kyle Gordon, Huber and Quinn Olson to edge the Calgary Canucks 4-3 on Sept. 27 in the city.
Ben Sanderson added the other marker, the rookie forward’s first tally in the AJHL.
Netminder Ben Howard made 26 saves in the win.
The Oilers brought their winning ways to Camrose, the site of the league’s annual showcase weekend in which collegiate scouts from Canada and the United States converge on all 16 teams.
“It’s always exciting whether you’re young in the league or like me in my third year,” Huber said of the showcase weekend. “We did a good job of keeping everyone’s head in it and on the game rather than everything else going on. The focus was really good.”
The scouts were treated to a wild affair as Okotoks outlasted the Lloydminster Bobcats by a 6-5 score on Sept. 29.
Huber, Dylan Holloway and Jacob Bernard-Docker scored powerplay goals.
Gordon notched the game-winner in the final frame after both teams combined for seven goals in a wacky middle stanza.
“It was a bit of a rollercoaster,” Huber said. “We dealt with the adversity really well, whenever a goal would go in against we responded really well as a group. It’s a good sign to see that early in the year.”
There would be little of that resolve needed in a comfortable 7-3 victory over the Bonnyville Pontiacs to close showcase weekend on Sept. 30.
Huber and Austin Wong each scored twice, Regan Doig and Reece Soukoroff found the back of the net while Kylor Wall added his fourth goal of the season.
Gordon had four assists in the tilt, upping his totals to a team high 11 points in seven games.
The Cochranite has formed a great partnership with Wong and Olson, three of the top five point producers on the team.
“We read off each other pretty well,” Gordon said. “Wong and I played together last year and have chemistry from before and Olson works really well with us. He’s a good, young player who moves the puck really well, skates hard and works hard.
“We all like playing with each other and that’s the most important thing.”
The Oilers went 9-for-15 on the powerplay during the three-game stretch to improve to second in the league with a 33.33 per cent efficiency rate.
“We worked on it,” Gordon said. “Moving the puck quickly around, taking the puck to the net and kept it as simple as we could. We didn’t try too many plays, just tried one or two passes and shots to the net with guys going to the net.”
Impressively, Okotoks picked up the maximum points without key contributors as winger Tanner Laderoute sat the week out serving a three-game suspension while Wong sat out for a pair for the same reason.
In goal, Howard continued to provide valuable cover in the absence of injured starter Riley Morris.
Howard improved to 6-0 early in his AJHL career.
“Our younger guys came up and played really well to fill the holes we had,” Gordon said. “They stepped up to the challenge and did a great job. It’s nice to have those guys back, but we played as well as we could without them.”
The Oilers remain on the road for their next three contests starting with back-to-back weekend dates in Calgary to battle the Canucks on Oct. 6 and back in Camrose for a clash with the Kodiaks the following night. Okotoks’ next home date is Oct. 13 versus the Fort McMurray Oil Barons.
For more information go to okotoksoilers.ca