Contributed By: Sean Emmett – Sun Country 99.7FM/High River Online, Oilers Colour Commentator
Photo Courtesy of: Allen Gimblett/Dynamic Photography
Three games, three wins for the Okotoks Oilers last week, as they made short work of the Canmore Eagles, sweeping their first round series.
The Oilers came into their opening round of the AJHL Playoffs against the Eagles as the favourite to win, after finishing 26 points ahead in the standings and taking five of six regular season games.
The series kicked off in Okotoks Thursday night, with the Oilers edging the Canmore Eagles 2-1, jumping out to a 1-0 series lead.
After Eric Krienke put the Oilers ahead in the first on the powerplay, Lane Olson tied things up early in the third for the Eagles to get his team back in the game.
Queue Nolan Thompson.
The 17-year-old Oilers rookie, in his first AJHL playoff game, buried his own rebound on Eagles' goalie Ryan Ferguson just two minutes later for the eventual game-winner.
Oilers' netminder Nic Renyard didn't see too much action, stopping 18 of 19 saves for his first every AJHL playoff win.
Special teams were a factor in game one, as they would be all series, with the Oilers going 1/5 on the powerplay, and a perfect 6/6 on the penalty kill.
The Oilers and Eagles went right back at it Friday night in Okotoks for game two, with both teams coming out with significantly more jump in their game, the Eagles in particular.
It took just 12 seconds for Eagles' forward Kurt Hildebrand to get his team on the board, converting off of a bad bounce.
It also didn't take long for the Oilers to answer, as Mitch Collett finished off a perfect tic-tac-toe passing play from Tanner Ockey and Eric Krienke to tie the game just over five minutes later.
With what would be the only goal of the second frame, Top Rookie finalist Trey deGraaf put his team ahead with his first AJHL playoff goal on the powerplay just 54 seconds into the period.
In the third, it was a deja vu for Lane Olson, as he tied the game in the third for the Eagles for the second straight night.
But, another deja vu of sorts, as another Oilers rookie would play the hero, this time Carson Beers with a late goal on the powerplay that would stand up as the game-winner, putting the green and gold ahead two games to none.
With a day off Saturday, the Oilers made the trip to Canmore on Sunday looking for the first round sweep.
Tanner Ockey opened the scoring in the first for the Oilers, but the Eagles got back on the board two minutes later on the powerplay thanks to, guess who, Lane Olson, with his third goal of the series.
Jordie Lawson would put the Oilers ahead in the second period, but the Eagles would tie it again with just over five to play, with Joe Serpico getting the credit for the goal after the puck went past Nic Renyard off an Oiler leg.
After a tenacious, back and forth overtime period, Connor Chambers picked up the puck after a Trey deGraaf shot block, rushed down the ice and fired a wrist shot past Ryan Ferguson, securing the game and the series.
Chambers says he's happy to contribute to the team in such a big way.
“It's a really good feeling, you know,” he says. “This is my first series as a junior hockey player too, so it's just really nice to help the team win and have that goal go in.”
Associate Coach Bobby Fox says Chambers played a strong game all night, but really stepped it up in the extra frame.
“That overtime period, he took it to another level for sure,” Fox says. “We were in a good position, we were up two-nothing, we can be probably a bit looser when a goal doesn't end our season, but he really didn't hold back, he had no fear out there. He was swinging for the fences, that's for sure, and it paid off.”
Oilers' goalie Nic Renyard remained in MVP and Top Goalie form, keeping his team in the game with 37 saves, including 10 in overtime.
Ryan Ferguson was no slouch at the other end of the ice either, as the Eagles' goalie made 31 saves in a losing cause.
After defeating the Calgary Mustangs in a three game sweep, the Oilers will face off against the Brooks Bandits in round two of the AJHL playoffs, a team they went 0-4-2 against in the regular season.
Game one is slated for Friday night in Brooks, with the schedule subject to change.
The other match-up in the AJHL South Semi-Finals sees the Camrose Kodiaks take on the Drumheller Dragons, who swept the Olds Grizzlys in round one.