Oilers complete sweep of Camrose with commanding Game 4 victory

CAMROSE, AB (March 15, 2023) — After coming from behind to win each of their first three 2023 playoff games against the Camrose Kodiaks, the Okotoks Oilers finally bucked the trend in Game 4 and never trailed en route to a strong 4–1 victory.

Oilers forward Connor Gourley (Calgary, AB), acquired from the Kodiaks midway through the 2021–22 season, led the way in Game 4 with his first two goals of the playoffs (including the series winner) and, by our estimates, more than a half-dozen shots on goal. Even without the services of Sam Huck (Calgary, AB), the Oilers outshot the Kodiaks by a 32–27 count in the deciding contest.

Brett Huxley (Calgary, AB) and Jackson Rowland (Calgary, AB) also scored for Okotoks, which became one of two teams (the other being the Whitecourt Wolverines) to complete a quarterfinal series sweep on Thursday. It remains to be seen whether the Oilers will face the top-ranked Brooks Bandits or a different AJHL South team in the second round.

Lucas Lemieux scored the lone goal for Camrose in the game. All five goals were scored in the second period, with the first four all coming within a span of just three minutes and 23 seconds coming right out of the gate from the first intermission.

Huxley opened the scoring at the 1:22 mark of the middle frame, taking a pass from Conyr Hellyer (Okotoks, AB) at the side of the Camrose net and stuffing the puck through goaltender Freddie Halyk for his first goal of the 2023 playoffs. Rylan Brown (Sherwood Park, AB) also factored into the scoring play.

Just over a minute later, Gourley scored his first of two goals in the contest off his own rebound at the foot of Halyk’s crease, patiently coaxing the Camrose goaltender into a sprawling position before depositing the puck into the wide-open cage. Brody Maguire (Calgary, AB) registered the lone helper on Gourley’s first goal (and point) of the playoffs.

Although Lemieux struck back 65 seconds later to cut the Oilers’ lead to one, it took only 73 seconds after that for Gourley to score once more to restore the visitors’ two-goal cushion. This time, Gourley skated through the slot right in time to receive a centering pass by Ryan Neumann (Calgary, AB) before unloading a perfect wrister past Halyk.

The score remained 3–1 for nearly 10 minutes before the Oilers put the game to bed with a shorthanded goal at the 14:09 mark of the second. Four skaters? No problem: Nolan Flint (Beaverlodge, AB) took advantage of a Camrose turnover, skating wide down the left side in the offensive zone before finding the younger Rowland driving toward the paint for a one-timer.

That was all the Oilers would need. They successfully fended off a Camrose surge in the third period, holding onto their 4–1 lead despite being outshot 14–2 over the final 20 minutes. Parker Sawka (Cochrane, AB) had one of his best games as an Oiler, stopping 26 of the 27 shots he faced and successfully staring down numerous odd-man rushes for the home side.

It remains to be seen when (and against whom) the Oilers will return to action, but one thing is irrevocably true: Okotoks is through to Round 2.

Recap: Mike Gould