Oilers ready to prove themselves at Mac's
Hockey: First-year Okotoks one of five male host teams of tournament
Thursday, Dec 14, 2017 06:00 am
Oilers vs. New York Jr. Islanders. Dec. 27, 2:30 p.m. Ken Bracko Arena.
Oilers vs. Lethbridge Hurricanes. Dec. 29, 11:45 a.m. Father David Bauer Arena.
Oilers vs. Prince Albert Mintos. Dec. 30, 11:45 a.m. Father David Bauer Arena.
Lifetime goals are set to be unpacked on Boxing Day for the new kids on the block.
The Okotoks Bow Mark Oilers embark on their first foray into the 40th annual Mac’s Midget Tournament looking to turn heads as one five male host teams at the prestigious competition.
“It’s been a Christmas tradition. I’ve been coming here since I was little, my dad coached back in the day,” said Oilers alternate captain Jackson Kobelka. “It’s an annual thing where I would come watch a few games at the Mac’s and it’s just always been my goal to come play here.
“It’s an honour that we get to represent our team and have an opportunity to have a feature game. We’re all relishing the chance to take advantage of it.”
An institution in Western Canada, the Mac’s tournament is both a battle for team prestige and a scouting showcase for those looking to make the jump to junior hockey.
“Playing in a Mac’s, not only does it give you butterflies, but it also gives you exposure,” said Oilers alternate captain Nathan Bailer. “This is probably the biggest chance we’re going to get to show people and show scouts that we’re ready to play at the next level.
“I think everyone knows our strong zone got split in two and a lot of teams are going to underestimate us. Coming into a tournament like this we have to prove ourselves as a team. If we can make a statement in this tournament it will help us out in the long run this year.”
Okotoks is skating in its first year in the Alberta Midget Hockey League after being awarded a franchise in the off-season when the CFR Chemicals Bisons draw zone was split in half.
Just three skaters on the Okotoks team have Mac’s experience in netminder Hunter Young, blueliner Tyler Strath and captain Joel Krahenbil.
All three helped the Bisons reach the semifinal round last year.
“We’ve got to learn to battle and be resilient,” Krahenbil said. “Being down by a goal you can’t let that get to you because it’s a short tournament. You’ve got to always have a positive mindset.
“The crowds are great, it’s exciting, you get into it early and you just do a job.”
Easier said than done.
The Bow Mark brass takes on the challenge of preparing 17 of 20 skaters for a completely new experience.
“This is world-known and just for these kids to have this opportunity they’ve got to go out and make sure they’re having fun,” said Bow Mark Oilers head coach Kevin Willison. “We’re not going to make it difficult for them system-wise. Our record indicates that even the young team we have in the league this year we can make it happen.
“We’re going to make sure they’re mentally prepared and if we do the right things the wins and losses will take care of themselves.”
Okotoks, hosts of Pool 4, will lock horns with the New York Jr. Islanders, Prince Albert Mintos, Greater Vancouver Canadians and league rival Lethbridge Hurricanes.
The Islanders are the true wildcard in the division, the Canadians rank fifth in the wildly competitive BC Major Midget League while the Mintos are the third seed out of Saskatchewan with just four losses on the campaign.
“A bunch of these teams have reputations and we don’t really have one,” Krahenbil said. “It’s going to be beneficial for us because they don’t know us, we don’t know them. It’s going to be who wants it more.”
Lethbridge is one of the top teams in the province, the number two seed in the South, with just two losses on the season.
The Oilers, 12-6-4 in the AMHL, have shown they can more than hang with the ‘Canes.
One of the Lethbridge defeats is to Okotoks from the season opening tilt while the Oilers managed to tie the Hurricanes on the road in the other matchup.
“We’ve played them tough, they’re one of the top teams in the division,” Kobelka said. “Every team here is going to be good, we’ve just got to come ready and prepared every day or else we’re going to get shown up a little bit.”
The Oilers tournament opener sees them take on the Canadians on Boxing Day followed by their feature match on Dec. 27 against the Islanders.
“You want to hit the ground running, especially in a tournament like this,” Bailer added. “There is no way you can have a slow start in any game, let alone the first one.
“As long as we can build up some momentum going into the Mac’s I think we will be fine.”
Before the Oilers step on the ice at the Mac’s they’ll get a taste of what’s to come.
Okotoks hosts the defending Mac’s champion Team Belarus U17 on Dec. 22 for a tournament exhibition game in the ramp up to the competition.
“I’m thinking they’re going to be just as strong as last year,” Willison said. “It’s probably going to be a bit of a wake-up call for the guys knowing the competition that’s going to be at the Mac’s.
“We’re going to have our work cut out for us. Everything is a learning curve for these guys. I can’t wait to see what they have to throw at us and hopefully we will be able to counter and throw something back at them.”
Puck-drop is 7 p.m. at Pason Centennial Arena
Tickets are $5 for adults and available at the door or by contacting Shawn Bailer at 403-809-2338. The game is free for students as well as OMHA and OOAA players to attend.