Emotions spark Bisons to weekend sweep
Hockey: Okotoks takes back top spot in the South with five games remaining
Wednesday, Jan 24, 2018 06:00 am
Games in hand are only as useful as you make them.
Controlling their own destiny in the four-horse race for first place in the Heritage Junior Hockey League the Okotoks Jr. B Bisons made the most of a jammed schedule picking up three wins in as many days to climb back into top spot in the South.
“We need to go into every game like it’s a do-or-die situation,” said Bisons defenceman Joel Deeprose. “We’re so close to playoffs that we need to start playing like it’s playoffs where if we lose it’s like we go down in a series.
“We need to start preparing ourselves for playoffs, for that type of game.”
Mission accomplished on Friday, a dominant 7-4 triumph over the Strathmore Wheatland Kings.
Okotoks poured in perhaps its most dominant period of the season, firing 29 shots through the first 20 minutes and skating to a 5-2 lead.
Goals from Tyler Rohl, captain Josh McCulloch and the truculent Ryan McLean had the hosts up three inside nine minutes. Rohl added his second of the period and Nicholas Murrell got in on the offensive parade before the end of a prolific opening frame.
“Our first period we stuck to our game plan, kept it simple and played our game,” said Bisons head coach Chris Beston. “If we can stay out of the box, that’s our goal from here on out. As soon as we started taking penalties the flow of the game stopped and we got out of our game plan.”
Penalties dogged a much more quiet middle frame.
It wasn’t without fireworks.
Tyler Bordt restored the Bisons four-goal advantage, taking a stretch pass from Kyle Harrison and picking the far corner on a breakaway for his first goal with the club. Strathmore’s Chayse Hnatowich got one back for the visitors on the powerplay.
Emotions took over in what was a combative divisional meeting.
Okotoks’ Kyle Dunville took exception to a late hit from towering defenceman Hayden Vander Ploeg, took matters into his own hands and got the better of the Kings player in a one-sided donnybrook.
The fisticuffs carried over into the third period.
Deeprose came to the defence of Bisons affiliate Evan Woods, a forward for the Bow Mark Midget AAA Oilers, and got the better of George Montour in another spirited dust-up.
“I turned around and he had (Woods) by the cage and the gloves were off,” Deeprose said. “It definitely helps for the boys coming together, especially sticking up for teammates. I’m not the only one that did it tonight. It definitely brings us together.”
The Kings added another powerplay marker through Hnatowich answered by Bordt’s second tally of the game on a partial breakaway.
“We got sucked in a little bit, but in some parts we were just defending our teammates,” Beston said. “Deeprose stepping up and defending Woods, a Midget AAA call-up, he showed that he’s willing to battle for the team and we need our team to buy into that.”
The home-and-home series switched to Strathmore on Saturday with similar results.
Pugilistic defenceman Taylor McNeill scored the game-winner in the third period as the Bisons doubled up the ‘Kings by a 4-2 count. Harrison and Bordt found the back of the net while affiliate player Hunter Maximnuk, a call up from the Bow Mark Midget AAA Oilers, scored in his Bisons debut.
The Bisons closed the weekend with a 14-1 trouncing over the Three Hills Thrashers.
Okotoks finished a ridiculous 5-for-6 on the powerplay and were credited with 105 shots on goal.
Dunville and Josh Russo led the way with hat-tricks as 17 of 18 Bison skaters got a least a point in the annihilation.
The Bisons (20-9-2) have a two-point lead on the surging Coaldale Copperheads for first in the division while the Cochrane Generals and High River Flyers are just five points back.
“It’s nice to have that first place behind you, but at the end of the day – first place, fourth place it doesn’t matter. It all comes down to how you play in the playoffs,” Deeprose added. “Being first does definitely give you confidence going into games against second, third-place teams and to have that confidence you’re going to beat them at some point in the year.”
Okotoks is home to Coaldale on Jan. 26 and closes the weekend with a Jan. 28 matinee at the Murray when the Northern Division’s Stettler Lightning rides into town.
For more information go to oktoksbisons.com