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Oilers score shootout victory for opening weekend sweep

Hockey: Rylan Brown nets winner over Canmore in home opener

A six round shootout ensured the Oilers skated away with the maximum points from week one.

Rylan Brown scored the shootout winner in the sixth round to lift the Okotoks Oilers 5-4 past the Canmore Eagles in their home opener Saturday night to complete the home-and-home sweep to kick off the Alberta Junior Hockey League 2023-24 regular season.

“It’s huge for us just knowing we can come back and win games,” said Brown. “We should have won that game in the first place and shouldn’t have been in that situation.

“But to show that resilience and come back like that is big for the team.”

The topsy-turvy contest saw Okotoks take the early advantage, relinquish the lead in the second and third period before forcing an extra session in the late stages of regulation.

“It was stressful, we wanted the win so bad,” Brown said. “We want to be a top team in the whole league this year so we need to win every game we can, it was crunch time.”

Alternate captain Brett Huxley converted a rebound in the high slot with just 61 seconds left in the third period to make it 4-4 and get the hosts into overtime.

“It was pretty chaotic,” Huxley said. “Our defenceman (Ethan) O’Halloran put it on net and there was a little scramble there, it ended up on my stick and I just made a little move to my left, had a wide open net and put it in.”

Hunter Sawka and Kade Duell, a rookie forward, staked Okotoks to a 2-1 advantage in a dominant opening frame for the Oilers.

Duell showcased his speed and quick release on a powerplay goal, his first in the AJHL.

“Browny came out from our end and I saw some ice in the middle, he made a nice pass and I got the breakaway and put it in,” Duell said. “It’s good to get it out the way quickly so I don’t have to worry about it and can just play my game.”

Canmore bucked the trend in the middle frame and took the lead with quick strike goals on consecutive shifts from defencemen Brody Tallman and Brody Mortenson with Okotoks’ Connor Gourley tying it at three late in the period.

“It was good to get back to our building this season with our fans, it’s a great show of support,” Huxley said. “The boys were excited, we got off to a little bit of a shaky start, wanted to be better, but in the end we battled and got the W and that’s the most important thing.”

Okotoks improved to 15-3 all-time in home openers.

Eight players made their home debuts with the Oilers on Saturday, including the all-rookie line of Duell, Thomas Matte and Brett Wilson along with offseason addition Sam Hall, a blueliner from New Jersey.

“They play a huge role on the team,” said Brown of the collection of new additions. “With them it allows us to roll all four lines, all three pairs and they hold their own and excel.”

Okotoks took the season opener on the road on Sept. 15 by a 5-1 count.

Eleven Oilers registered one point on the night with the visitors striking for three goals in the opening frame through Jagger Tapper, Sam Huck and captain Dean Spak.

Hall and Colton Alexander, a physical forward from Cochrane, completed the scoring for the Green and Gold.

In between the pipes, Shane Shelest marked his Oilers regular season debut with a 22-save effort.

“The first game is huge, it sets the tone for the next one,” said Huxley of the home-and-home format. “You know what to expect from what you saw before and we can prepare and watch video. We like the home-and-homes.”

Week two of the regular season will see the Oilers travel to Olds on Sept. 19 before another home-and-home set with the Blackfalds Bulldogs in Okotoks on Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. with the reverse fixture the following night in Central Alberta.

“It’s great, we’ve got lots of confidence, lots of momentum,” said Duell. “And we’ll try to keep it going forward.”

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Remy Greer

About the Author: Remy Greer

Remy Greer is the assistant editor and sports reporter for and the Western Wheel newspaper. For story tips contact [email protected]
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