Hard luck Oilers roll past Thunder

By Remy Greer, Okotoks Western Wheel

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Okotoks outlasts Drayton Valley 5-2 to stay in the race for second


The Okotoks Oilers continued to do the right things and they were finally rewarded after a week of hard-luck results.

The Oilers dispatched the Drayton Valley Thunder 5-2 Sunday at Pason Centennial Arena in Okotoks, after losing games in a shootout and overtime earlier in the week.

“I thought it was a good effort from the guys,” said Oilers head coach James Poole after defeating the Thunder.

“And I’m really pleased with our game right now since Christmas. We’re probably unfortunate not to be 5-0 right now.”

Okotoks is instead 3-0-2 as a result of a shootout loss to Drumheller on Jan. 11 and a disheartening 1-0 overtime defeat to the Camrose Kodiaks on Jan. 14.

A strong first-period against Drayton Valley set the tone on Sunday.

Oiler defenceman Tariq Hammond buried his second goal of the season on the man advantage to give Okotoks a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.

The offence from the blueline proved to be contagious.

Trade deadline acquisition Connor Sutton introduced himself to the Oilers’ faithful with an absolute howitzer into the back of the goal in the 19-year-old rearguard’s first home game with his new club.

Minutes later rookie John Edwardh was rewarded for his persistence in the offensive zone, and just a shift after nailing the crossbar on a golden opportunity, the Calgary native snapped a wicked wrist shot that would end up as the game-winner.

“I thought because I had a lot of chances today that I would just get it on net and see what happened,” Edwardh said of his 13th goal of the season. “And luckily it went in.”

The Oilers looked to be home and dry midway through the final stanza, but the Thunder did not go quietly into the frigid southern Alberta night.

Hulking forward Neil Tarnasky beat two Oilers on a nifty deke and set up linemate Doug Jones for a beautiful backhand tally to end Jared D’Amico’s shutout bid with just over eight minutes remaining.

Drayton Valley’s Eric Seiben made it interesting as the forward bulged the twine three minutes later to make it 3-2.

It was as close as the visitors would come.

Tanner Olstad put the comeback bid to bed with a powerplay tally and rookie Tanner Ockey notched his first AJHL goal in the waning moments to complete the three-goal victory.

Oilers forward Braeden Salverda said the scare the visitors offered in the third period was merely a momentary lapse in concentration from the hosts.

“We were just a little too relaxed, too comfortable out there,” he said. “But right after they scored we bounced right back and went back to what we found worked.”

It was a motivated, albeit road weary effort from the Oilers.

Okotoks benefited from a positive carry over effect from its 1-0 overtime loss less than 24 hours earlier to the Camrose Kodiaks.

Salverda said the unforgiving result gave his club a jolt of motivation against a Drayton Valley club with aspirations of a division crown.

“Last night we thought we outworked them and got the short end a little bit there,” Salverda said. “We wanted to bounce back strong and we were motivated to go out and get the win.”

Edwardh agreed adding the Oilers can ill afford to give up points regardless of the opponent at this juncture in the season. The Oilers (23-15-4) sit third in the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s (AJHL) South Division and trail the Kodiaks by three points, but hold one game in hand on their divisional foes.

“We’re in a tight race for second in the division,” Edwardh noted. “And like the coaches have been saying fatigue is all mental. It’s mind over matter.”

The Oilers will need to channel such mental strength this weekend as the AJHL club faces a challenging two-game trip to the northern edge of the province. The green-and-black are in Fort McMurray on Friday and Bonnyville on Saturday.

“It’s going to be a good test for us,” Poole said. “If we can go in there and steal two wins in two tough buildings it’s going to go a long way to see where we’re at as a team.”

The Oilers return home the following weekend for divisional clashes with the Calgary Mustangs on Jan. 25 and the Kodiaks on the 26. To keep track of full schedules and results go to www.okotoksoilers.ca.