The Okotoks Oilers resolved to simplify their game in the new year and it’s already bearing fruit.
Okotoks edged Canmore 3-2 Saturday at Pason Centennial Arena to spark a home-and-home sweep over the Eagles and solidify third spot in the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s South Division.
“It’s our first game back after a long break and we just wanted to keep it simple out there, stick to our brand of hockey,” said Oilers captain Connor Chambers. “I think we did a pretty good job of just making the smart plays, not trying to do too much out there and finding a way to get the W.”
The captain had his fingerprints all over the important divisional triumph.
Chambers opened the scoring with a seeing-eye point shot on the powerplay midway through the first period before impressive Eagles rookie Adam Tisdale evened the contest with a spinning shot past Okotoks’ Riley Morris.
The visitors took their first and only lead of the game early in period two on a Logan Ferguson deflection. The advantage would prove short lived.
Following a pair of possession heavy shifts on the cycle, Okotoks got back even when the energetic Tanner Laderoute dropped the puck for Jordie Lawson to bury on a three-on-one completed to perfection.
Less than a minute later Okotoks took the lead for good when Danton Davis threw the puck on goal and Chambers potted the rebound for his seventh of the campaign.
Canmore pushed back strong in the third period, throwing 16 shots on Morris to no avail. The second-year Oiler turned aside 33 shots to earn his 15th win.
Laderoute, unfortunate to not have a few goals in the contest, had the two best opportunities to score when the Eagles had the extra-attacker out and the goalie pulled in the final two minutes.
“I thought we were up and down throughout the game, especially in our own zone we looked scrambly at times,” said Oilers head coach James Poole. “It’s nice we were able to grind one out. Riley Morris was good in net and some of our leaders I thought were real good in terms of Chambers, Lawson, Laderoute had really good games.”
Following a somewhat disappointing month of December, reflected by the 4-5 record, the calendar change offered a chance for a refresh for the youthful Oilers.
“With this being such a young team we’ve had some rookie and vet stuff for the first half of the year,” Chambers said. “Coming into 2016 we just look at everyone as equals, everyone has to contribute and do their jobs and tonight was a good building block.”
Okotoks earned the two-game sweep on Sunday by doubling up the Eagles on the road by a 4-2 count.
Alternate captain Trey Degraaf paced the club with two goals while freshman defenceman Riley Mathies potted his second of the campaign and 20-year-old centre Colin O’Neill netted goal number eleven. Brian Wilson made 28 saves for his fifth win as an Oiler.
The two game-sweep puts Okotoks (22-15-2) six points above Canmore for third spot in the South with the division leading Brooks Bandits showing no signs of slowing down on a now 11-game winning streak.
“It’s going to be a tight battle with us, Canmore and even Drumheller is going to have something to say about it too, they’re starting to show signs,” Poole said. “These South games are huge down the stretch, especially head-to-head against the Canmores or Drumhellers to at the very least get that three seed and see if we can’t close the gap on Camrose and Brooks.”
The Oilers get back to home-ice for a mini two-game home stand in back-to-back dates versus the basement dwelling Calgary Mustangs and Drayton Valley Thunder on Jan. 8-9.
Both games are 7 p.m. starts at Pason Centennial Arena.