Oilers complete season sweep over Bandits
Hockey: Okotoks cushions South Division lead by halting surging Brooks
Wednesday, Jan 10, 2018 06:00 am
That oncoming locomotive in the rear-view mirror just hit a major detour.
The South Division leading Okotoks Oilers (31-6-2) snapped the Brooks Bandits 11-game winning streak while completing the season series sweep over the defending Alberta Junior Hockey League champions with a priceless 4-2 victory in a four-pointer Friday night at Pason Centennial Arena.
“We said even if we play the best game we’ve ever played and lost we wouldn’t have been happy,” said Oilers alternate captain Kyle Gordon. “It’s not often Brooks loses six games to one team and it feels really good.”
Entering the contest with just five points separating the top two teams in the South, the rivals battled to an old-fashioned shootout in a wild-opening frame featuring five goals on the first 12 shots.
“There were those back and forth goals right off the bat and we stayed key to our plan and didn’t ride the waves and get too high or too low with emotions and stayed even keel,” said Oilers defenceman Ryan Roberts. “The way the puck was going, both teams came out hard, we were flying and both have great offensive ability and great forwards so that will happen.”
Okotoks’ Austin Wong opened the floodgates just three minutes from puck-drop, jumping on a rebound in the crease and slamming home his 16th goal of the season. Marc Pasemko swiftly doubled the lead after forcing a turnover in the offensive zone.
Brooks bounced back as Nic Hamre and Nathan Plessis found the back of the net, levelling the score at 2-2.
The Oilers stormed back on the next shift, regaining the lead 19 seconds later as Gordon found room down the right wing and picked the far corner for his first of two markers on the evening.
“That’s always the plan to score right after they score, it really kills the mood,” Gordon said. “I know I hate it when we score and get scored on, we went out there and wanted to have a good low shift and work them a little bit and it worked out.”
Following a scoreless middle frame marked by myriad special teams opportunities for both clubs, the contest was up for grabs entering the final stanza.
Okotoks put on the work boots, wrestled the momentum and took over the contest despite dressing just 11 forwards and losing centre Blake Wells to injury early in the tilt.
Gordon gave the hosts a much needed cushion, finishing off a tasty dish from Wong and tucking it on the backhand while diving across the crease with just over six minutes left to play.
“We had a good neutral zone fore-check on them, me and Olly (Quinn Olson) clogged up the wall,” Gordon said. “That led the guy right into Wong, he turned it over. I called for it and he didn’t even see me, behind the back right to me. I knew the only way I was scoring was back post so I buried my head and tried to get it there.”
The work wasn’t quite done.
Brooks earned itself a 5-on-3 advantage with just under four minutes left in regulation with the three-man unit of Gordon, Roberts and Jacob Bernard-Docker putting their body on the line to keep the high-octane Bandit powerplay at bay.
“All game we wanted to stay disciplined, but we took a couple there,” Roberts said. “We just knew we had to sacrifice, not one man is bigger than the team so we’ve got to go balls out to block a shot.”
Riley Morris made 32 saves and settled in nicely after allowing two goals on the first seven shots he faced.
“We got back to our focus, it’s always our score we want to take care of,” Roberts added. “We played five-man strong defence.”
Okotoks made it two wins in as many nights.
Nick Blankenburg notched the overtime winner as the Oil edged the host Camrose Kodiaks 3-2 in overtime on Saturday.
Pasemko and Tanner Laderoute added the other goals while Morris made 20 saves to pick up his 15th win of the season.
The Oilers tackled the Calgary Mustangs on Jan. 9 after the Wheel’s press time. The team is in Drumheller for its lone weekend game on Jan. 12. Okotoks’ next home date is Jan. 16 versus the ‘Stangs.
For more information go to okotoksoilers.ca