Okotoks affirms second spot in division with consecutive wins over Calgary
By Remy Greer, Okotoks Western Wheel
It turns out November is not too early to scoreboard watch in the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s South Division.
Fortunately for the Okotoks Oilers back-to-back wins over the Calgary Mustangs has the team sitting alone in second place with 28 points and a two-point cushion over the third-place Camrose Kodiaks.
“It’s just natural to see what’s going on and the South Division is really tight from two down,” said Oilers head coach James Poole. “Right now it’s just one game at a time through this busy stretch.”
The short-term focus paid off on the long weekend.
Okotoks skated to a 4-1 win over the Mustangs, Monday at Father David Bauer Arena in Calgary.
Chris Collins staked the road team to an early lead, answered by a marker from Calgary sniper Blair Wentworth. Cody Michelle added two goals in the middle stanza to make it 3-1. Defenceman Kolton Dixon, in his debut for the Oilers after a stint with the Victoria Royals, made it 4-1 Oilers on a wicked point shot and in doing so put an exclamation point on the convincing win.
The Oilers also took the front end of the home-and-home 3-2, Saturday at Pason Centennial Arena in Okotoks.
Wentworth put the Mustangs up 1-0 early in the first period, a lead that was short lived. The Oilers’ all-rookie fourth line of Mitch Amatto, Mitch Collett and Colton Sheen provided Okotoks’ first goal of the night through Amatto and created havoc in the offensive zone all night with a relentless forecheck versus Calgary.
“The speed was a big thing for our line and it paid off, we exploited their defence,” said Collett, moments after one of his best nights as an Oiler . “This was the first game we’ve played together (as a line) in a while and it’s great they work hard and see the ice well.”
Joe Serpico restored the Calgary lead with a powerplay marker before Oilers
Co-captain Greg Lamoureux tied the game at 2-2 with 2:30 left in the second period.
In the dying seconds of the middle frame Scott Bolland blocked a wicked clearance attempt down the ice from Stefan Virtanen, and though shaken up on the play stayed on the ice and with three seconds on the clock hammered a slap shot to the back of the net for eventual game-winning-goal.
“I saw a group of guys going for the puck in the middle and it slid past them and I just caught it,” Bolland said. “Two guys were blocking the goalie and they shifted to my right and I shot it and the left side was open and it went top left.”
With Tariq Hammond injured during the game and new acquisition Dylan Schellenberg too ill to play, the Oilers were down to four healthy defencemen.
Former blueliners Robbie Fisher and Bolland filled in at their old positions.
“It’s always fun to go back to the position that you’re used to,” said Bolland, who was a defenceman all the way until Midget. “I’m comfortable back there, it’s kind of like riding a bike.”
Picking up two points on divisional rivals is crucial especially given the parity in the South. Just seven points separate second from seventh in the division.
The night prior the Oilers dropped a 4-1 contest to the Camrose Kodiaks for the first trip the visitors made to Okotoks this season.
“To lose against Camrose was a big loss, but it shows our mental toughness when you comeback and get a couple points,” Bolland said. “It’s really close from second to fourth so those points are really huge.”
The Oilers face a challenging road trip this weekend with three games in three days. Okotoks is in Spruce Grove on Friday, Lloydminster on Saturday and Sherwood Park on Sunday.
“We just have to take what we do at home and bring it to the road and keep things simple up north,” Collett said. “Three games in three nights so we’ve got to make sure we get rested up.”
The team returns to the Pason Centennial Arena on Nov. 23 for a date with the Drumheller Dragons. For more information go to www.okotoksoilers.ca.