Oilers wrap historic season on 24-game streak
Hockey: Okotoks rewrites the record books as top team in AJHL
Wednesday, Mar 07, 2018 06:00 am
The Okotoks Oilers finished what they started to lower the curtain on a storybook season.
Okotoks extended its Alberta Junior Hockey League record consecutive winning streak to 24 games with a 3-2 triumph over Canmore on Sunday to close 2018 undefeated and end 2017-18 with a team best 52-6-2 record.
“It’s pretty crazy and kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Oilers rookie forward Zane Kindrachuk. “All these guys will never be on the same team again so we’re just trying to make the most of it, taking it one game at a time and trying to get better every day.”
Improving on what’s been 63 days of perfection in 2018 is no easy feat.
The Oilers produced the most goals (270) and allowed the least (132) en route to running away as the top regular season finishers in the AJHL, producing the second most wins, 52, in league history under the 60-game format.
“It’s been kind of a whirlwind,” said Oilers defenceman Reece Soukoroff. “We know we’re capable of doing this game in, game out and we’ve just got to go out there and prove it.
“It all starts in practice for us, our practices have gotten a lot better, they’re a lot more consistent and consistency is huge. We’ve said all year we never want to lose back-to-back games and it just turns out that we haven’t lost at all. Everyone wants to be hot going into playoffs and you can’t be much hotter than 24 in a row.”
Team culture paved the way for the record-setting season.
“When we get guys in here we look at their character and we want guys that want to move on, we want guys that are professional in what they’re doing,” said Oilers head coach Tyler Deis. “Once you start getting those type of players in here it’s infectious. Everyone wants to get better and wants to move on and their personal goals take over.”
“When you have a bunch of guys that do that and it goes into your team philosophy, your team culture and everyone starts pulling that rope the same way.”
Okotoks bested the 1988 Calgary Canucks previous best 21-game winning streak by dispatching the Canmore Eagles 4-1 on Thursday in the Rockies.
The Oilers then put the finishing touches on the final home stand in edging the Camrose Kodiaks 4-1 on Saturday.
The season finale on Sunday saw Okotoks hold off the Eagles once again by a 3-2 count.
Kindrachuk, Kaleb Ergang and Tanner Laderoute provided the offence in front of an appreciative crowd of over 1,200 at Pason Centennial Arena.
“It’s huge. At the start of the year getting 500 people a night all the way up until whatever it was tonight,” Soukoroff said. “It’s absolutely amazing. The community, I feel like they’re catching on a little bit and we’re trying to come out every time and give them a product to watch.”
Okotoks was presented the Dave Duchak Trophy as the top team in the AJHL prior to puck-drop on Sunday. Presenting the trophy to the team captains was Duchak’s son Gary, a longtime Oilers season ticket older.
As the first seed the Oilers are idle in round one of the playoffs. The South Division best-of-five series feature #2 Brooks vs. #7 Canmore, #3 Drumheller vs. #6 Calgary Canucks and #4 Camrose vs. #5 Calgary Mustangs. Okotoks is expected to host Game 1 of the second round on March 16.
They enter the post-season as the CJHL’s No. 1 ranked team in the country.
“I never thought that record would ever be touched,” Oilers goalie Riley Morris said of the winning streak. “Everyone’s confidence is pretty high, but I think we’re doing a good job keeping everyone in check because during the playoffs no one is going to expect to us to win every game all the way through.
“We’re going to battle some adversity and I think we’re prepared for that.”
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