Flyers clipping at Bisons heels in the South
Hockey: High River evens season series with Okotoks
Wednesday, Dec 20, 2017 06:00 am
The race for the Heritage south is heating up.
The Okotoks Jr. B Bisons go into the holiday break with their eyes in the rear-view mirror after the High River Flyers evened the season series with a 3-1 triumph on Sunday to cut the lead to one point separating the Heritage Junior Hockey League rivals.
“We were 20 minutes too late to the drop of the puck,” said Bisons alternate captain Kyle Harrison. “We came out slow, flat-footed and they took advantage of us.”
The host Flyers didn’t give the Bisons a chance to catch their collective breath in the opening frame.
Okotokian Joel Nalder fired the hosts home just 55 seconds into the contest on the powerplay. Less than five minutes later the Flyers doubled the lead when the dangerous Evan Pakkala was left alone in front to bury a rebound opportunity.
“We had a great first period,” said Pakkala, an Okotokian. “It’s very rare to come out just going like that, everyone was ready to play tonight from that rivalry.”
The ice was tilted following the intermission with the Bisons getting the better chances and sustained pressure from a consistent fore-check.
The hard work paid off as antagonistic forward Nicholas Murrell got the visitors on the board, firing a shot from behind the net off Flyers netminder Chantz Vinck and into the yawning cage.
That’s all the offence they could muster as Vinck and a resolute Flyers defence held the fort in the final frame.
Davis Sheldon, the Nanton forward running away with the Heritage scoring title, iced the result with an empty netter with 1:19 left in regulation.
“We tightened up our own zone,” Pakkala said. “Our defence in a couple games at the beginning of the season was really sloppy, forwards and D. We tightened it up this game and generated a lot of offence. Good defence leads to great offence.”
The Foothills foes are now even at 2-2 in the season series with two of the games needing overtime.
Okotoks (16-7-2) has a one-point lead on the Flyers for first in the Southern Division with two games in hand on High River.
“It’s a tight league we have here,” said Bisons forward Robbie McLean. “Most teams in the south are above five-hundred, you can’t take a game let alone a period off which we did in the first.
“We were a little lackadaisical, we got a penalty on the first shift and they capitalized on it, put us on our heels and we were playing catch-up ever since.”
Dreams of sugarplums might have been dancing in the combatants’ heads in what was their final action before the holiday break.
“It’s the best, but it’s the worst,” McLean said. “You’re happy for the holidays to come and then you always want to gear up for a big rivalry with High River because we love playing them, they love playing us.”
Okotoks opened its weekend in a 6-1 road victory over the Cochrane Generals on Friday.
Tyler Rohl and freshman forward Jharin Bantugan led the way with two-goal effort, Dallas Otto chipped in with a goal and an assist with Ryan McLean adding the other marker.
Okotoks gets back on the ice on Jan. 5 in High River for their fifth meeting of the season with the Flyers. The Bisons also host the HJHL All-Star Game on Jan. 7 at the Murray Arena.