Flyers facing steep climb to qualify for post-season
Hockey: Local products optimistic of playoff berth for High River
By: By Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 23, 2013 06:00 am
The foothills’ two representatives in the Heritage Junior Hockey League are a study in contrasts.
The Okotoks Jr. B Bisons can put it on cruise control until the second round of the playoffs as the South Division regular season champions. Meanwhile, the High River Flyers (10-18-2) are facing an uphill climb towards the post-season, seven points back of a playoff berth with the clock approaching midnight on the regular season.
“Everybody knows that we have to come together. That we have to pass, we have to shoot, we have to score,” said rookie Flyer Steven Showalter, an Okotoks native. “Everyone understands what has to happen. It’s a matter of putting the action forward, which is something we’ve had some struggles with. But we can do it, we’ve done it before.”
The Flyers, 1-3-1 in the New Year, sit seven points back of the Cochrane Generals and have just eight games to make up some ground.
Fortunately for the Flyers, they have traversed such ice fields and come out unscathed before.
Facing an identical scenario last season, High River won five of its last seven games to sneak into the playoffs jumping ahead of the Medicine Hat Cubs as the fifth seed.
“It’s something that’s constantly reminded to all the new guys,” said third-year Flyer blueliner Zane Briggs, a Longview resident.“We just got on a roll, we were happy and playing good as a team. We just got it together to make it in.
“You take it from last year and try to push, but it’s going to be tough.”
Forward Ryan Midtdal from Okotoks said he knows the room for error down the stretch is as finite as a grain of sand.
“Every game counts and it’s coming down to the wire here,” said Midtdal, 20.
“We have to play with a little more urgency and that’s what we’re looking for in our younger guys as well. We’re not going to win games without having a team effort.”
Showalter, part of a rookie-laden roster of eight freshman Flyers, will likely have further opportunities at post-season glory in Junior.
The same can’t be said for the core leaders on the Flyers, including Briggs, captain Tom Mikrut and alternate captain Ryan Goldthorpe, all of whom are in their final season.
“We’re lucky because we’re younger we have a second chance,” said Showalter. “As a whole we’re playing for those guys, the 22-year-olds, to keep going and that’s huge for us.”
The unforgiving Junior B schedule has teams playing three games on most weekends, combined with a pair of practices.
To have all those hours on the rink and in the gym without a payoff in the form of the playoffs is a scenario the Flyers are seeking desperately to avoid.
“Playoffs are a different animal, you’re excited to play every minute,” said Midtdal, whose registered four goals and 15 points in 2012-13.
“It’s a long season to get there and seeing it all go to waste would just be a kick in the butt.”
The Flyers are at home Friday when they host the Strathmore Wheatland Kings and then look to ride the Lightning in Stettler
For full schedules and standings information go to www.heritagejunior.com.