Undermanned Oilers find unexpected offensive riches
By Remy Greer, Okotoks Western Wheel
A pair of mid-season call-ups sparked the Okotoks Oilers to their most dominant win of
the season, a 7-2 romp Friday over the Fort McMurray Oil Barons.
Okotoks then added a come-from-behind 5-2 win over the rival Olds Grizzlys the following night at the Pason Centennial Arena to complete a perfect weekend on home-ice in Alberta Junior Hockey League play.
With co-captain Greg Lamoureux out of the lineup with a leg injury and fellow top-six forwards Tanner Olstad, Cody Michelle and Connor Hartley sidelined with the flu, affiliate players Tanner Ockey and Sheldon Rempal stepped up for the undermanned Oilers on Friday.
“Tanner has a tremendous work ethic,” said Oilers head coach James Poole. “He’s fearless, finishes checks, is willing to take hits and goes to a lot of traffic areas.
“The other players see it. They see how hard he works and that kind of rubs off on them.”
Ockey earned a spot on the Oilers’ roster after a terrific training camp, but instead opted to play one more year of Major Midget with the Calgary AAA Royals.
“I didn’t have the season I wanted last year in Midget AAA and I wanted to have a strong season before I made the jump,” Ockey said. “I don’t regret that decision.”
The hard-nosed 17-year-old has been welcomed back with open arms during his four-game stint with the Oilers.
“They like my hitting and they like my energy too,” said Ockey, whose physicality far out-weighs his five-foot-nine, 160-pound frame. “They’re always giving me a pat on the (butt) on the way off.”
Ockey said the Fort McMurray win resulted from sticking to the gameplan from the opening whistle to the final buzzer.
“Everybody was chipping and chasing,” Ockey said. “Everybody was taking the room that they had.”
The Oilers came out flying against the Oil Barons, the defending North Division finalists. Co-captain Robbie Fisher scored two goals from his office in front of the net followed by first-period powerplay markers from the surging Mitch Collett and red-hot Scott Bolland.
Rempal, a top-25 scorer in the Alberta Midget Hockey League with the Calgary Buffaloes, took home a nice keepsake from his first game of Junior A.
The Calgarian slotted home the Oilers’ fifth goal on an odd-man rush with rookie Mitch Amatto.
“It was a two-on-one play developing and I just went hard to the net and tried to get a stick on it,” Rempal said. “Luckily it squeaked through and got in there.”
Not bad for a player who woke up Friday without any knowledge of a call-up.
“I just got the text in the morning and said yes right away,” Rempal said. “I get my game face on and try to do the little things right.”
Rempal’s exploits at both ends of the ice didn’t go unnoticed.
“He’s got a real good skill level, a very good hockey IQ and he showed a lot of confidence,” Poole said. “It was good to see him get rewarded with a goal.”
Oil Baron John Teets spoiled the party momentarily for the Oilers with a second period marker answered minutes later by Okotoks blueliner Tariq Hammond’s first goal of the season.
Fort McMurray’s Alex Cromwell added a third period tally before Chris Collins closed out the game with Okotoks’ third power-play goal of the night.
Jared D’Amico had a quiet evening in between the pipes, stopping 12 shots for his first of two wins in as many nights.
Less than 24 hours later the Oilers’ foes from Olds came to town for a crucial divisional match-up on Dec. 1.
Collins opened the scoring with his 11th goal of the season, but the Grizzlys quickly answered with first-period tallies from Chris Stachiw and JC Heck.
However, Okotoks responded with four unanswered goals to notch the three-goal win.
Michelle showed no ill-effects from the flu, sliding home his fifth of the year past Olds’ Talor Joseph on the powerplay in the second period. Hartley looked fully recovered as he snapped a seeing eye wrist-shot into the back of the net for the game-winner.
Bolland’s blistering shot gave the Oilers some much needed-insurance with four minutes on the clock and Collett added the empty-net goal after winning a puck battle with Stachiw.
The two-win weekend gave the Oilers some breathing room in the veritable logjam enveloping the South Division standings. Okotoks (17-11-2) sits second with the Camrose Kodiaks and Drumheller Dragons each within four points.
The Oilers face a challenging weekend ahead.
The team heads north up Deerfoot for another meeting with the Grizzlys, this time in Olds on Friday. The Oilers then return home for a Saturday night date, 7 p.m. at Pason Centennial Arena, with the first-place Brooks Bandits.
For more information on the team go to www.okotoksoilers.ca.