Saturday, Sep 23, 2017 06:00 am
By: Remy Greer
Okotoks Oiler Ben Sanderson celebrates with Ben Howard after the goaltender recorded his first career shutout in a 7-0 win over the Canmore Eagles on Sept. 23.
The Okotoks Oilers have earned their best start in 10 seasons with a newcomer thrust into the forefront.
Ben Howard improved to 3-0 in his Alberta Junior Hockey League career while stopping 22 saves in picking up his first shutout in relief of the sidelined starter Riley Morris as the Oilers blanked the Canmore Eagles 7-0 Saturday at Pason Centennial Arena to improve to 4-0“It has been kind of a whirlwind. I didn't expect this off the bat,” said Howard. “I've took it day by day and the guys are really supportive and have really helped out.”
The Calgarian improved his save percentage to .947 and goals against average to 1.33 in his three starts after opening it up in a winning note in last week's victory in Brooks over the Bandits.
“That was just a confidence booster,” Howard said. “Coming in against the best team in the first game of my AJHL career, kind of nerve-wracking. Once you do that everything else seems easy in comparison.”
Howard and the Oilers made it look easy on Saturday.
Tanner Laderoute scored twice, Regan Doig and Carter Huber potted their first goals of the season and Zane Kindrachuk registered his first career tally as the hosts scored five times in a dominant second period.
The hits kept coming in the final frame.
Dylan Holloway celebrated his 16th birthday by knocking in his first junior goal on a partial breakaway and fellow freshman Kaleb Ergang added his second to put an exclamation mark on the triumph.
Okotoks took the front end of the double header with Canmore by a 6-3 count on Friday.
Quinn Olson notched his first two goals as an Oiler to lead the team with a three-point effort. Kylor Wall, Nick Blankenburg, Kyle Gordon and Reece Soukoroff also found the back of the net.
“We had four great practices all week,” Holloway said. “We worked hard on our structure and were really well prepared and when it was game time we were ready to go.”
Okotoks is 4-0 to start a season for just the second time in team history, accomplishing the feat for the first time since the 2008-09 campaign.
The Oilers, who along with Fort McMurray Oil Barons are the only undefeated team, sit atop the South Division standings.
“Our goalies have really been holding us in,” Wall said. “All four games they have been outstanding.
“As long as we're clearing pucks for (Howard) and trying to help him out the best we can, he's good enough to stand on his head when he needs to.”
Next up for Okotoks is its first tilt with the Calgary Canucks at the newly renamed Ken Bracko Arena, inside the Max Bell Centre, on Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. The Oilers are off to AJHL Showcase in Camrose next week with games versus both the Lloydminster Bobcats and Bonnyville Pontiacs.
For more information go to okotoksoilers.ca