Xtreme-Bisons series down to a best-of-three
Thursday, Mar 08, 2018 06:00 am
Vying for the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League (AMBHL) Provincial Championship, the Airdrie Xtreme finds itself in a tight series with the Calgary Bisons.
After each team won an overtime game at home, the series is now a best-of-three – with no room for error for either of the AMBHL South Division’s best teams.
“It’s a good, high-pace, high-speed calibre of hockey,” said assistant head coach Reid Hnatowich.
Through the first two games, the Xtreme and Bisons have proven to be balanced opponents, but Hnatowich said his team has more to show.
“I have yet to feel that we have played up to our full potential,” Hnatowich said. “Specific individuals on different nights have done that, but as a collective group, we still have a lot to give.”
The series kicked off with a bang March 3, when the Xtreme travelled south to Calgary to take on the Division’s top seed. In the opening game, a pair of quick Bisons goal changed the tone of the series. The Xtreme’s Nathan Airey was chased from between the pipes, opening the door for netminder Freddie Halyk.
Since taking over midway through the first period of Game 1, Halyk has turned away 58 of 62 shots faced.
Even with Halyk’s brick-wall effort, it was the Bisons that drew first blood, winning 5-4 in double overtime.
In Game 2 it was once again the Bisons that opened scoring, with a goal late in the opening frame.
The Xtreme turned the tide after a scoreless second stanza. Ty Mueller and Keagan Slaney scored a pair of goals in the first half of the third, but the Xtreme couldn’t hold on the lead. The Bisons knotted the game up with a little more than five minutes left, forcing overtime.
“Those are things we still need to clean up,” Hnatowich said.
“As a group, we take the lead and our mindset shifts from, ‘Let’s go win the game,’ to, ‘Let’s not lose the game.’”
Tension rose as the Xtreme was one goal away from going down 2-0 in the series, but Halyk stayed strong, turning away the 11 shots he faced through three overtime periods. Josh Davies was the hero of the game when, in the third overtime period, he clenched the victory with a goal.
The battle continues with Games 3 and 4 March 6 and 7 respectively (after press time). Should the series require a fifth game, it will be held at Cardel Rec South in Calgary, March 8 at 7:30 p.m.