Bisons shutout Wheatland Kings
Hockey: Okotoks earns 1-0 win in Strathmore
By: By Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 06, 2013 06:00 am
The Okotoks Bisons showcased the defensive wherewithal they are going to need in the post-season, now they just need to re-discover their scoring touch.
The Bisons held on for a 1-0 victory over the Strathmore Wheatland Kings, in Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) action on Sunday night, with Okotokian Zach Baba’s second-period marker standing up as the only damage on the scoreboard.
“We were on the powerplay and luckily our line got out there and we made the most of the opportunity,” said Baba of his eighth goal of the season. “Matt Howatt was at the blueline and I was yelling shoot, he heard me and put it on net and I put a stick on it and it went in.”
The 21-year-old, who plays the less glamorous role as a grinder and enforcer on most nights for the herd, said he couldn’t remember the last time he had the game on his stick.
“That’s probably the first game winner I’ve ever had. Let’s be honest here,” joked Baba, who was scoring at a point-a-game clip with eight goals and 22 helpers in 30 games this season. “We just couldn’t bury our opportunities and it’s always nice to chip in when you can because your goal scorers are always going and the other guys need to help out when they can too.”
It was a team effort for Okotoks to keep an eye on Strathmore’s offensive stars, as they are the fourth-leading scoring team in the HJHL, boasting leading scorer Andrew Bergmann and dangerous linemate Ross Fox.
“Before the game we were talking about their top guys and how we were supposed to shut them down and we did a good job of that,” Baba said. “We tried checking them as much as we could and getting in their heads and it obviously worked.”
The Bisons’ depth on defence allowed the coaching staff to trust all three pairings out against Bergmann.
“He was out two minutes at a time every second shift it seemed like,” said Bisons general manager Jay McFarlane. “They did their best to try to get him on the scoreboard, but we were taking advantage of the rotations and having six solid defence allowed us to focus on him.”
Rookie goalie Alex Bilton stopped all 28 shots he faced to pick up his league-leading third shutout of the season.
“This was a make-up game. We had a team event the night before so from a performance standpoint we were glad to come out with the win,” the general manager added. “But we know there could have been some distractions and fatigue that might have entered into the contest.”
The standout performance reaffirmed the Bisons’ strength in goal. The first-year netminder and third-year Okotoks goalie Tyler Hughes are both top-six in the league in wins, goals against average and save percentage.
“(Bilton) continues to be consistent and steady. He’s not perfect, he is human, but he has great reaction time,” McFarlane said. “We’re comfortable whether we put him or Hughes in.”
The two are expected to continue to split starts in the regular season and post-season schedule.
The Bisons close out their home schedule on Friday when the surging Medicine Hat Cubs come to Murray Arena in search of a seventh-straight victory. The puck-drops at 8 p.m. The herd then rumbles into the Rockies for a regular season finale with the Banff Academy Bears on Sunday.
For more information on the team go to www.okotoksbisons.com.
Flyers still in the hunt
The High River Flyers’ dreams of a post-season berth are not dead just yet.
Following a 1-1 weekend, High River sits seven points back of the Cochrane Generals and with four games left on the schedule will need to win out and hope for a collapse from the current fifth-seed to sneak into the playoff picture.
It’s a favourable schedule for the Flyers for the remainder of the season as they meet basement dwellers Stettler, Banff and Ponoka before closing the season versus the Northern Division kingpins, the Blackfalds Wranglers.