Snakes steal top spot from Bisons
Hockey: Okotoks in dog fight for playoff seeding in HJHL
Wednesday, Jan 31, 2018 06:00 am
Smash-mouth hockey sometimes comes at a price.
For the Okotoks Jr. B Bisons the over exuberance cost them their lead atop the Heritage Junior Hockey League Southern Division as undisciplined play paved the way for a 6-3 loss in the first-place battle with the Coaldale Copperheads Friday at the Murray Arena.
“We’ve got to stay out of the box, that’s been our thing all year,” said Bisons captain Josh McCulloch. “It’s hurting us a lot and our coaches are making that pretty clear. It’s hurting us every single game, even if we win we’re still getting goals scored on us on the shorthanded.
“We’re too emotional right now. We get caught up in the rough stuff too much and always wanted to be the bigger guys out there and it’s not helping us so far.”
Entering the contest with one-point separating the southern squads the Snakes drew first blood.
Jedd Horvath got the visitors in front following a turnover in the neutral zone.
Okotoks’ Kody Briggs evened the score within three minutes on a terrific individual effort for the gritty forward’s third goal of the season.
Back and forth they went.
Coaldale’s Isiah Day Chief restored the advantage followed in short order by a McCulloch powerplay marker.
The Snakes took the 3-2 lead heading into the second intermission on a four-minute powerplay on Ty Abbott’s first goal in the loop.
“Discipline is always what gets us,” said Bisons forward Kyle Dunville. “I find we’re always on edge, we’re always on top of other teams when we’re full ice, playing 5-on-5. Once we get down and we’re taking those penalties it always takes a tough edge of the team.”
Okotoks got back some momentum early in the final stanza.
Fleet-footed defenceman Joel Deeprose went coast-to-coast and feathered a saucer pass for McCulloch to convert into the back of the net, again leveling the score at 3-3.
“That definitely gave us a kick back in there and we definitely thought we could have won,” Dunville said. “Unfortunate calls, unfortunate chances, they get the edge on us there. They battled hard, they knew what they were doing, kept on us.”
Particularly on the powerplay. Levi Anderson gave Coaldale the lead back for good on the man-advantage followed by insurance markers through Calvin Swanson and Chase Williamson to see out the 6-3 result.
“That was a hard fought game, playoff hockey,” McCulloch said. “We have a history with that team and I think it’s just going to get better from now.
“We take it game by game. That game just happened, it’s gone, we’ve just got to work towards our next one. Going into playoffs we’ve got a lot of things to change, especially on our PK, but I think we’re on the up rise.”
The Bisons rebounded with an 8-6 victory in a high scoring affair over the visiting Stettler Lightning on Sunday.
Rookie Jason Horn and alternate captain Kyle Harrison led the way with two goals each, the Bash Brothers, Robbie and Ryan McLean, each contributed one-goal, one-assist efforts. Deeprose and affiliate player Hunter Maximnuk added the other tallies.
Okotoks (21-10-2) sits second in the Southern Division, three points up on the Cochrane Generals who own a game in hand. The High River Flyers are seven points back in fourth place.
Within the division is where Okotoks’ troubles have occurred of late.
Against top-four Southern opposition in Coaldale, Cochrane and High River, the Bisons have won just three of their past 10 games.
“We’ve definitely had our fights with them,” Dunville said. “When it comes down to it, if we play our game, stay out of the box and keep battling I’m pretty confident that we will take it in the end.”
Okotoks gets put to the test in its final road games of the season this weekend with stops in High River and Coaldale on Feb. 2-3. The Bisons wrap up the campaign at home on Feb. 11 versus Medicine Hat.
For more information go to okotoksbisons.com