OKOTOKS, AB (Mar. 29, 2023) — How about that for a response?
Led by a three-assist effort from Conyr Hellyer (Okotoks, AB) and a pair of points from Sam Huck (Calgary, AB), the Okotoks Oilers defeated the Brooks Bandits by a 3–2 score on Wednesday evening to tie their AJHL South Division semifinal series at two games apiece.
Parker Sawka (Cochrane, AB) stopped 23 of the 25 shots he faced to pick up his sixth win of the 2023 postseason. Zeth Kindrachuk (Calgary, AB) and Ty Yoder (Tofield, AB) also scored for the Oilers, with the latter recording his second game-winning goal of the series.
After surrendering the opening goal to Bandits forward Caelan Fitzpatrick just past the midway mark of the first period, the Oilers responded with back-to-back-to-back tallies in the back half of the opening frame — and, with all their scoring chances, the home side easily could’ve been up by more than just two goals after 20 minutes of play.
The Oilers outshot the Bandits 11–7 in the first period of Game 4, a marked difference from Game 3 (in which Brooks controlled the shots 16–6 in the opening 20 minutes before being outshot 16–8 the rest of the way).
“Reflecting on [Game 3], that start is not how we wanted to play and it’s not what we needed to do to be successful,” Oilers assistant coach Reid Hnatowich said after Wednesday’s game. “That was our main focus in the first: doing what we did in that second and third period yesterday in regard to our tenacity, our forechecking ability, our physicality.
“Those were kind of the focus points. And then, obviously, you create offence that way.”
The Oilers created plenty of offence in Game 4. Even beyond his three helpers, Hellyer alone had approximately a half-dozen scoring chances on Wednesday evening. The Oilers narrowly bested Brooks 26–25 in the shot column in the contest.
Brooks didn’t go away without a fight. After a scoreless second period, Bandits forward Heath Armstrong got his team back within one goal just 3:41 into the third. On top of their 14 shots, the Bandits struck iron behind Sawka a couple of times as they searched for an equalizer.
It never came. In front of a record-breaking crowd of 1,569 at Okotoks Centennial Arena, the Oilers held on to tie the series with a 3–2 victory — and, in the process, they guaranteed a Game 6 matchup at home on Sunday night.
In the meantime, the Oilers and Bandits will do battle in Game 5 at Centennial Regional Arena in Brooks on Friday evening. You’ll be able to catch that game on The Eagle 100.9, with full coverage starting at 6:45 p.m. MT.
Recap: Mike Gould
Photo: Chad Goddard