OKOTOKS, AB (Jan. 27, 2023) — Kade Turner (Calgary, AB) helped spark a huge first period with a goal and an assist as the Okotoks Oilers defeated the Bonnyville Pontiacs by a 5–2 score at Okotoks Centennial Arena on Friday evening.
Turner opened the scoring at the 3:44 mark of the first period, capping off a slick passing play with Dean Spak (Calgary, AB) and Brett Huxley (Calgary, AB) with a nice move past Pontiacs goaltender Bodee Weiss for his fifth goal of the season.
After Shayne Tibbles (Calgary, AB) doubled the Oilers’ lead just shy of the midway mark of the opening frame, Turner helped set up Zeth Kindrachuk (Calgary, AB) for a quick goal in the final minute of the period to make it a 3–0 hockey game.
“Everybody’s starting to buy in, it’s really good for us,” Turner said after being named the first star of Friday’s contest, which also marked the start of the team’s Parents’ Weekend celebrations. “That’s kind of the identity of our team, just work hard in the D-zone, block shots, be desperate.”
Turner is in the midst of a terrific sophomore AJHL season with the Oilers, picking up more than his fair share of the offensive slack left by the likes of Tucker McRae and Riley Bodnarchuk over the summer. The 19-year-old leads all Oilers defencemen and ranks seventh in the league at the position with 37 points in 45 games.
Those three goals in the first period ended up being all the Oilers would need on Friday, although they added two more for good measure as the Pontiacs showed increased signs of life in the final 40 minutes of regulation.
Jagger Tapper (Calgary, AB) made it 4–0 early in the second period off a perfect backhand shot after a tremendous individual effort to carry the puck out of the corner into the slot. But the Oilers then conceded the next two goals, with one coming late in the second and the other midway through the third.
Luka Sukovic beat Parker Sawka (Cochrane, AB) with a highlight-reel tally to snap the Oilers’ shutout bid with 2:50 remaining in the middle frame. From there, Matteo Giampa banged home a rebound on a Pontiacs power play at the 7:22 mark of the third period to cut the Oilers’ lead to 4–2.
The Oilers bent a little, but they didn’t break. Eventually, in the final five minutes of regulation time, Connor Gourley (Calgary, AB) managed to take advantage of a fortunate bounce to restore the three-goal lead for the home side. Curtains.
With the win, the playoff-bound Oilers improved to 30–15–1–2 on the season. That’s good for a four-point lead over the Blackfalds Bulldogs, Saturday’s opponent at Okotoks Centennial Arena, for second place in the AJHL South.
“It’s a huge game tomorrow,” Turner said. “We gotta do what we did tonight, lock down the D-zone, focus on their score — keeping it low — and we’ll be fine.”
Recap: Mike Gould
Photo: Chad Goddard