They couldn’t have drawn it up any better.
The Okotoks Oilers got three goals from rookies as nine skaters made their Alberta Junior Hockey League debut in a 4-2 triumph over the defending champion Brooks Bandits in the season opening clash Friday at Pason Centennial Arena.
“It was an emotional game and our guys wanted to set a tone,” said Oilers head coach Tyler Deis.
“It’s excitement, it’s nerves, it’s a cool experience to have and you want guys that are nervous and know how to stay focused and be positive. For a young group like that, especially our forwards, I thought we did a great job.”
Particularly as the game progressed
The Bandits opened the scoring on a 5-on-3 powerplay as defenceman Luke Bast’s point shot found the back of the net at the eight minute mark.
The lead wouldn’t last.
Nick Blankenburg opened the offensive outburst and gave it right back to the visitors as his snap shot on the man-advantage found the near corner for the Michigan native’s first junior goal midway through the opening frame.
The middle stanza saw the green-and-gold take complete control.
Kaleb Ergang gave Okotoks the lead it would not relinquish with a first career goal to remember.
The Edmontonian picked off a pass at centre ice, turned on the jets and picked the far corner for a highlight reel marker at 3:44 of the second period.
“We were kind of hemmed in our zone,” Ergang said. “And I stripped the D there and got the boots moving, came down and took a quick shot over the glove.
“It comes down to grit. We had to get our feet under us after the first period. It’s just go, go, go after that.”
Freshman winger Marc Pasemko made it a two goal advantage in short order as he followed Tanner Laderoute on the rush and potted the rebound into the yawning cage.
Okotoks added to the lead inside two minutes of the final frame when Kyle Gordon took a shot for a rebound which was buried in close by linemate Austin Wong.
The hard hitting Cochranite finished an assist shy of the Gordie Howe hat trick after dropping the mitts with former Oiler Nolan Thompson for a brief dust-up at centre ice.
Bast, a rookie defenceman from Red Deer, added a late consolation marker on the powerplay for his second tally of the evening.
Okotoks improved to 11-2 all-time in season opening games with the victory. The Oil have won nine of 13 home openers in franchise history.
“We tried to stay consistent, outwork them battle for battle, shift for shift and things will pay off at the end,” Blankenburg said. “Playing Brooks in the first game at home is a big one, everyone got up, everyone was ready, especially the vets. The vets have been awesome, they’ve led the way.”
The South Division foes battle again on Saturday night in Brooks in what will likely be a better effort from the Bandits on home ice.
“It’s only one game and it’s going to be a really hard fight tomorrow,” Deis said. “This is Brooks we’re talking about, we’re expecting a pretty hard game from them.”
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