Bisons steamroll Gens in season opener
Hockey: Kyle Harrison hat-trick vaults Okotoks to 10-3 win over Cochrane
Saturday, Sep 23, 2017 01:58 pm
A first period hat-trick, goals from four rookies and points from 14 skaters.
The Okotoks Bisons put on a clinic on how to open a season in a dominant 10-3 trouncing over the reigning South Division champion Cochrane Generals in the Heritage Junior Hockey League curtain raiser Friday at the Murray Arena.
“We knew we had some offensive power coming in,” said Bisons forward Robbie McLean. “We weren’t sure if it was going to show up right away because it sometimes takes a while to get going, but we’re happy to see everyone get on the board early.
“We had four rookies get their first goal and hopefully we can keep that up.”
The freshmen didn’t waste any time making their mark.
After the teams exchanged goals through Cochrane’s Jarod Domingo and Okotoks’ Kyle Harrison,
first-year defenceman McKoy Kalhert gave the hosts the lead they would not relinquish.
Harrison furthered the damage with two more tallies in the opening frame to complete the centre’s first ever first-period hat-trick.
“That’s the first and I got to keep that puck,” said Harrison. “I’ve got to attest a lot of it to the guys I played with. The D were getting their shots through all night. I hung around the net and when you do the right things good things happen to you.
“I was fortunate enough to get some bounces and they went in for me.”
Bisons captain Josh McCulloch made it a four goal lead after letting go of his patented wrist shot just over a minute into the second period. The Generals got one back on the powerplay through Austin Keller, but the celebrations would prove short lived.
Rookie Jharin Bantugan earned his first career marker, McLean found the back on a brilliant cross crease feed from Harrison and Tyler Rohl tucked in a powerplay marker to give Okotoks the commanding 8-2 lead after 40 minutes.
“We executed on pretty much everything we could have,” said McCulloch. “Our powerplay was clicking, we were being disciplined out there like our coaches were pretty keen on.
“The thing with Cochrane is they’re a skill team so as soon as you put up a few goals on them it takes away their energy.”
In the final stanza rookie forwards Jason Horn and Adam Stafford scored 52 seconds apart to put an exclamation point on the commanding victory.
“It’s exciting for them and us as well,” Harrison said. “I remember my first goal last year and everyone hyping up about it. It makes you want to go out there and score some more.
“If we can get scoring on all those lines we will be really dangerous out there.”
Okotoks got offence from the defence all evening with the blueliners contributing one goal and 13 points in the tilt.
Ten players made their Bisons debut on Friday.
Devin Reagan was called into action in between the pipes and made 40 saves to pick up the win in his first game with the club.
“Coming off a disappointing finish last year we’re excited to have a fresh start,” McLean added. “Knowing Cochrane won the South last year we really wanted to stick it to them to prove to the league we’re here to play.”
Okotoks gets put to the test against its most hated adversary in game two.
The Coaldale Copperheads descend upon Murray Arena on Sept. 29, the first time since they completed the reverse sweep to eliminate Okotoks from the post-season.
“We’re really excited for Coaldale next week,” McCulloch said. “This was just a big confidence booster and we know what we can do now and have to carry that into the next game.”
The Okotoks Bisons leadership group was announced prior to puck-drop on Friday. Josh McCulloch will wear the ‘C’ in his second season with the Junior B outfit. Joining the sniper are alternate captains in defencemen Taylor McNeill and Brennan Fuoco as well as sophomore centre Kyle Harrison
* Kyle Harrison. Three goals, four points in a dominant effort for the centre. One of the best rookie skaters last season could be poised for breakout campaign.
** Devin Reagan. Six-foot-four netminder was steady when called upon in a game that quickly got out of hand, making 40 saves to pick up the win in his Bisons debut.
*** Kyle Dunville. A thorn in the side of the visitors all evening. The antagonistic forward was terrific on the penalty kill and back-check.