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Oilers stumble in early stages, fall 5-2 to Brooks in Game 3

Mar 28, 2023 - AJHL Inter Pipeline Playoff game, Round 2 Game 3 between the Okotoks Oilers and the Brooks Bandits in Olotoks, AB (Photo by Chad Goddard)

OKOTOKS, AB (Mar. 28, 2023) — Owing largely to their lacklustre showing in the first period, the Okotoks Oilers dropped Game 3 of their AJHL South Division semifinal series against the Brooks Bandits by a 5–2 score on Tuesday evening.

More than 1,500 fans packed Okotoks Centennial Arena on Tuesday to witness two of the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s fiercest rivals going head-to-head for the opening end of a back-to-back playoff set. Game 4, with Brooks now leading the series 2–1, is slated for Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. MT.

The Oilers and Bandits split the first two games in Brooks, with the visitors showing excellent resolve against the league’s No. 1 seed in the regular season. But while Games 1 and 2 were competitive from start to finish, the Oilers played nearly all of Game 3 on catch-up mode.

Brooks struck early and often in the first period of Game 3, with Caelan Fitzpatrick, Ethan Beyer, and Hughie Hooker all scoring to put the Oilers in a 3–0 hole by the 15-minute mark of the opening frame. Shots in the first period favoured Brooks by a 16–6 count. To put it mildly, the Okotoks crowd didn’t have a whole lot to cheer about in the first 20 minutes.

The second period started in a similar fashion, with Bandits rookie defenceman Aaron Brown making it 4–0 at the 7:28 mark of the middle frame. But the Oilers finally got on the board with 4:34 to play in period two when Zeth Kindrachuk (Calgary, AB) beat Bandits goaltender Ethan Barwick on a breakaway after emerging from the penalty box.

Aiden Fink restored Brooks’ four-goal lead early in the third period, but the Oilers made sure to have their say once more before the final buzzer. With just 8:45 left in regulation, Brett Huxley (Calgary, AB) deposited a rebound past Barwick from medium range to make it a 5–2 game.

The Oilers and Bandits both scored two goals over the final 40 minutes of Game 3. Better yet, the Oilers outshot their opponents by a 16–8 margin over the second and third periods. If they can continue that trend into Wednesday’s action, they might just be able to restore the series tie in Game 4.

Kindrachuk was named both the game’s third star and the Hardest Working Oiler for his efforts on Tuesday. Brody Maguire (Calgary, AB), Jackson Rowland (Calgary, AB), and Ethan Rowland (Calgary, AB) picked up assists on the two Oilers goals, while Parker Sawka (Cochrane, AB) made 19 saves in the defeat.

The Oilers will return to action against the Bandits at 7:00 p.m. MT on Wednesday in a bid to tie the series at two games apiece. No matter what happens in that game, the two teams will meet again in Brooks on Friday evening for a critical Game 5 matchup. You’ll be able to listen to every Oilers 2023 playoff game on The Eagle 100.9, with full coverage for each game starting at 6:45 p.m. MT.

Recap: Mike Gould
Photo: Chad Goddard