Oilers hope to 'Pack the Rink' Friday against Camrose
By Remy Greer, Okotoks Western Wheel
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Call it brilliant marketing or a stroke of luck.
No matter how you slice it, the Okotoks Junior A Oilers’ annual Pack the Rink night and regular season finale this Friday packs a heavy punch.
The Oilers and Camrose Kodiaks will renew pleasantries on March 1 in a game that will decide the second seed in the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s (AJHL) South Division.
The Kodiaks and Oilers have a long-standing tradition of animosity. Through 48 regular season meetings, the Oilers hold a slight edge of 27 wins to the Kodiaks’ 21.
“Our rival all along since we’ve been in Okotoks is Camrose, we always have great games against them,” said Oilers head coach James Poole. “For the fans to come out and catch that game and if we can pack the rink it would be a great thing for our players.
“The fans would buy into it too and it would be a great note to go into the playoffs on.”
The tilt has serious playoff implications.
The Oilers (36-18-4) hold a two-point advantage on the Kodiaks (34-18-6) with both teams having played 58 games.
For the green-clad outfit, home-ice advantage has become a huge factor. The Oilers’ faithful have especially made their presence felt as of late. Okotoks’ win on Family Day saw the attendance eclipse the 1,000 mark for the first time all season and the Friday shootout win over the Olds Grizzlys saw the second highest mark of the year with 931 paying customers at Pason Centennial Arena.
“It’s good hockey, fast hockey, there’s lots of scoring and it’s going to be intense,” Okotoks Oiler Greg Lamoureux said of what to expect on Friday. “It’s two teams that hate each other and it’s coming down to the wire.”
The Oilers’ co-captain said an enthusiastic and full building can make a world of difference for the players on the ice.
“When you’re playing in front of people especially at home there’s a sense of pride that you can get that many people cheering for you,” Lamoureux said. “They came out spent their money to watch you play and put on a show.”
The Oilers have won three of the five meetings with Camrose this season and blitzed the Kodiaks 7-0 the last time the divisional foes squared-off on Jan. 26. However, the teams bring a remarkably similar statistical record to the season finale. Okotoks holds a slight edge with 185 goals to Camrose’s 179 and own a better defensive record allowing just 149 goals against to the Kodiaks’ 155.
To send the faithful home smiling the Oilers will need to take care of the defensive zone against Camrose, insisted Lamoureux.
“They play really good defensive hockey as well,” he said. “They’re all one-goal games so there will be lots of work in our defensive zone. When we get our opportunities we have to score because you don’t get a lot against Camrose.”
The Kodiaks hold the first tiebreaker, most regulation wins, meaning the Oilers have to win in regulation or overtime in order to guarantee themselves the second seed. Camrose closes out its campaign on Saturday against the fourth-place Drumheller Dragons.
Prior to the Friday showdown, the Oilers host the top ranked Brooks Bandits on Thursday evening.
It’s a contest the Oilers will not be looking past.
“Anytime we play Brooks our kids get up for it,” Poole said. “Both games are going to be easy ones to get up for. It’s a good opportunity for us to play our best hockey going into the playoffs.”
The Oilers carry an ace up their sleeve as one of just three teams to defeat Brooks in regulation this season, having edged the Bandits 2-1 on Feb. 5.
“Winning the last game gave us a lot of confidence,” Lamoureux said. “We know that if we want to get to the finals and win the final, which is our goal, we have to go through Brooks.”
Both the Thursday and Friday games are 7 p.m. at Pason Centennial Arena. For ticket information go to okotoksoilers.ca or contact the Oilers business office at 403-995-2255.