Bisons snag top sniper for playoff run
Hockey: BC goal king Spencer Samuel adds to Okotoks' offensive riches
By: By Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 23, 2013 06:00 am
There’s a certain magnetic force that comes with building a culture of winning in a hockey program.
The Okotoks Bisons have been doing just that for four months as part of a 29-game unbeaten run so you can’t blame late-season acquisition Spencer Samuel for being drawn to the herd.
“Being a 20-year-old I thought it was time to figure out what I wanted to do with myself and coming to Okotoks with the record they have is a no-brainer,” said Samuel. “I just made a decision that was for the best.”
Samuel left behind a promising season of Jr. B hockey in B.C. to join the Bisons following the Christmas holidays.
The five-foot-10, 165-pound forward was the leading scorer with the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s (KIJHL) Revelstoke Grizzlies with 24 goals in 30 games at the time of his departure.
“Personally, it was excellent. The ice-time I was getting was phenomenal,” Samuel said. “But I would much rather have something to show for success than having a bunch of other hockey players on my bad side and being a little jealous you could say.
“It’s good to come here and hopefully I can put up the same points I was putting up over there.”
The Bisons are banking on just that.
Bisons general manager Jay McFarlane said Samuel adds offensive tools to an already loaded group of forwards in Okotoks.
“We’re just adding a little firepower at the front-end,” McFarlane said. “He’s an offensive player. He’s certainly similar to a Brodie Eisbrenner and, looking at Dillon Loomer with all of his ability and Jeremy Smith, we have a lot of offensive players now and we’re happy with that.”
Samuel has centred the Bisons’ second scoring line, flanked by talented wingers Ty Fehr and Phil Dillon, during his first three games with Okotoks and the trio’s chemistry is palpable.
“They play basically the same style I do,” Samuel said. “They’re pretty gritty, they’re fast skaters and see the ice well. The chemistry we have so far, it’s only been three games, is already pretty good and we can never not get better.”
The Drumheller native joins a familiar cast of characters on the Bisons as a minor hockey teammate of Jeremy Smith, Kevan Mikkelsen and Matt Howatt.
“It’s basically like coming to a team that I already played for,” Samuel said. “Coming to a team that’s welcoming you with open arms and to have them be ecstatic for me to come makes it that much better.”
The 20-year-old forward certainly has the experience to adjust to wearing a new sweater as something of a hockey vagabond during three seasons of Junior.
Samuel split duties with Revelstoke and the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) in 2010-11 before returning closer to home.
He lined up with the hometown Drumheller Jr. A Dragons last season, tallying 11 points in 55 games, but was victimized by a rule change cutting the maximum number of 20-year-olds per team from nine to six for the 2012-13 campaign.
“I had a lot of fan support,” Samuel said. “Since the Dragons started in their inaugural season my family billeted players so I was always around the organization.”
Through a cup of coffee in the Heritage Junior Hockey League, Samuel can already see some discernable differences between his current and former leagues.
“Out there you have a lot of younger guys 16, 17, 18-year-olds that are trying to get to the BCHL and playing with older kids in order to get that experience,” Samuel said of the KIJHL. “Out here with a lot of older guys, and 21-year-olds, it’s a lot more physical and in the corners.”
He’s hoping to experience a first in Alberta too, winning a trophy with the Bisons, the top-team in the HJHL by a country mile with a record of 29-2-1 and two-consecutive league titles.
“I’ve had my chances of winning championships, but things didn’t work out at the last stretch,” Samuel said. “Hopefully they will with this squad and it’s looking that way.”