By Remy Greer, Okotoks Western Wheel
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The Okotoks Oilers resolved to put the puck in the net more often in 2013 and so far, so good.
Following a 6-1 romp of the Olds Grizzlys on Friday, Okotoks used a three-goal third period to overcome the scrappy visiting Calgary Canucks by a 4-2 margin, in an Alberta Junior Hockey League tilt Saturday at the Pason Centennial Arena.
“Give the Canucks credit I thought they played a pretty good game,” said Oilers head coach James Poole. “But I was happy to see in the third period we had the right mentality, stayed pretty aggressive and found a way to win when we weren’t at out best.”
Poole said execution on scoring chances, and there were plenty amidst the 43 shots on goal, was where the Oilers misfired on the night.
“Guys missing the net, shooting it high and the other area was our net traffic was a little bit sparse at times, especially on the powerplay,” Poole said. “Just little things we need to be a little more
The Oilers dominated proceedings in the opening frame and were rewarded for the relentless forecheck when Mitch Collett popped his fourth goal of the season past Canuck netminder Jeff Orser.
Canuck leading scorer Clayton Petrie answered the bell 17 seconds into the middle frame to tie the score.
In the third period Oiler Tanner Olstad broke the 1-1 deadlock 10 minutes into the frame when he roofed a shot off the inside post from a tough angle. Rookie Mitch Amatto then buried a powerplay tally to give Okotoks a 3-1 lead.
The visitors would not close shop just yet.
Canuck captain Willy Sakal made it a one-goal game when he was left alone in the slot to slide the puck low past Oiler goalie Keith Hamilton.
Okotoks’ Cody Michelle then snapped a seven-game pointless streak with the insurance marker on a beautiful breakaway tally just 90 seconds after the second Canucks’ goal.
“Their defence was pinching so I did a loop and luckily (John) Edwardh did a sauce pass and I was off to the races,” said Michelle. “The puck wasn’t settling down so I just used all my force and went high.”
The Oilers’ two-goal victory completed a perfect weekend as Okotoks went into the Olds Grizzlys’ den on Friday and trounced the struggling South Division team by a 6-1 margin.
Connor Hartley paced the Oilers with two goals, while Edwardh, Braeden Salverda, Greg Lamoureux and affiliate player Eric Krienke all registered two-point performances.
“All in all it was a pretty solid weekend and a good start to the second half here,” Poole said.
The Oilers, third in the South Division with 46 points (22-15-2), hit the road this week for a pair of dates with their chief rivals for the second seed come playoff time.
Okotoks is in Drumheller tonight, Jan. 9, before heading north for a date with the Camrose Kodiaks (23-15-3) on Jan. 11. The Oilers are 0-3 against the Dragons (19-17-4) this season.
“You don’t want to say it’s a must win, but it’s an important game in the standings,” Poole said of the Drumheller tilt. “Home ice to be able to have that in the first two rounds if you can get that second seed would be really important.
“Head to head we’ve struggled this year and it’s definitely a monkey we want to get off our back.”
The Oilers return home on Sunday Jan. 13 for their first meeting of the season with the Drayton Valley Thunder. Puck-drop is at 4:15 p.m. at Pason Centennial Arena.
Home ice debut
An Okotoks native has enjoyed quite the whirlwind two weeks.
Matt Forchuk made his Junior debut with the Oilers in front of friends and family on Saturday.
The 17-year-old was fresh off his first appearance at the Mac’s Midget tournament with the UFA Midget AAA Bisons.
“It’s another jump and it felt good to get out there for the first game,” said Forchuk. “There was a bit of nerves, but it was pushed more into excitement and the nerves went away as soon as the game started.”
The five-foot-eight, 145-pound forward found the physicality of Junior a tad more intimidating than his peers in the Alberta Midget Hockey League.
“It’s a lot tougher, the guys are stronger and in better position and you can get caught in an instant,” he said.
Forchuk’s coach thought he handled the bumps and bruises admirably.
“I liked his grittiness,” Poole said. “For being a smaller player there’s no fear in his game. He’s willing to take some hits and get into traffic areas and obviously he has a lot of skill.”
Forchuk, the Bisons’ leading scorer with 23 points, could see his name in the Oilers’ lineup again this season as one of a number of steady affiliates.
“With Matt we will definitely look to get him more games if we can,” Poole said.
Quiet deadline day?
The AJHL trade deadline on Jan. 10 could be rather uneventful in Big Rock country.
Poole said in the supply and demand world of roster exchanges there simply aren’t enough resources to go around right now.
“Everyone is after the same thing and trying to add depth to their defence right now,” Poole said. “There’s not a whole lot available and the asking price for what’s available is getting unreasonable.
“We’re not in a position where we feel we have to force it.”
The Oilers are carrying the maximum of 23 roster players and with defenceman Max Mowat leaving the team at the Christmas break due to reoccurring head injuries Okotoks no longer needs to make any cuts prior to the deadline.