Contributed By: Sean Emmett – Sun Country 99.7FM/High River Online, Oilers Colour Commentator
Photo Courtesy of: Allen Gimblett/Dynamic Photography
A tough weekend for the Okotoks Oilers, as 5-1 and 6-2 losses to the Bandits in Brooks Friday and Saturday night, respectively, has the green and gold down 2-0 to their South Division rival in their second round battle.
The Oilers had a pretty good start to Friday's game, but the Bandits got on the board first on a late power-play.
It appeared Rhett Gardner had tied it minutes later, but the play was blown dead on an apparent high stick.
The Bandits would score another power-play goal early in the second, and Chase Clayton put his team up 3-0 with a dazzling individual effort.
After not registering a shot for the first 10 minutes of the period, the Oilers got on the board thanks to Tanner Ockey's power-play marker, but that would be it for the Oilers.
Austin Plevy made it 4-1 with another highlight-reel goal, similar to Clayton's, and Madison Dunn put it away in the third, sealing the 5-1 win.
Oilers' goalie Nic Renyard made 26 saves in the losing cause.
The two clubs were right back at it Saturday night in Brooks, and the Oilers looked ready to play as Connor Chambers gave the Oilers an early lead.
But, the Bandits stormed right back with four straight goals to take a 4-1 lead into the second period.
Brooks added to their lead in the third with goals from Linden Springer and Mark Logan (the second of the game for both skaters), which spelled the end of the night for Reynard.
It was the first time this season Renyard didn't finish a game, after the netminder allowed six goals on 32 shots.
Riley Morris, seeing his first ever AJHL playoff action, stopped all nine shots he faced in relief.
The Oilers now set their sights on a pair of home games, starting with game three on Monday night.
It's a pivotal moment for the Oilers, as they can either cut the series lead in half, or be pushed to the brink of elimination.
Coach James Poole says his squad showed signs of improvement in game two, but they're still searching for that full sixty-minute effort.
“We've got to make sure we eliminate those lapses,” he says. “We've gone through some video, we've made some small adjustments, but ultimately we just have to play a whole lot better, and we're capable of doing that. Our kids are excited about getting back home and playing in front of a good crowd (Monday night), and we're very confident our kids are going to respond with a great effort.”
Poole says it's important for the Oilers to just focus on their own game, and not let the Bandits dictate their play.
“We just need to get back to playing our identity and have 100 per cent buy-in from all our players, and 100 per cent commitment at both ends of the rink,” he says. “If we do that, we become the team that's very tough to play against and matches up well against Brooks, and obviously that's what we're looking for.”
Discipline remains a key component of winning for the Oilers, and although they've already made 16 trips to the box in this series, they've managed to put together a very good penalty kill against a potent Bandits' power-play, allowing just three goals against when Brooks has the extra man.
The kill was especially good on Saturday, staving off nine of 10 Bandits power-plays.
Poole says the Bandits try to draw a lot of penalties, and despite a good penalty kill, the Oilers need to stay focused and disciplined.
“Hopefully the refs are wise to Brooks' tactics,” he says. “We just have to play our game, make sure we don't put ourselves in any bad situations, and hopefully just worry about what we can control, and that's playing hard, that's playing smart, and that's our focus.”
Puck drop for game three is 7pm at the Centennial Arena in Okotoks, which will also be the scene for game four Wednesday night.