Bisons eke out win in weekend finale
Hockey: Okotoks in waiting mode until second round of playoffs
By: By Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 13, 2013 06:00 am
It’s never easy saying goodbye to a good thing.
Thus the Okotoks Bisons can be forgiven for having difficulty finishing off their opponent in their regular season finale at Murray Arena, a place the Heritage Junior B Hockey League (HJHL) heavyweights dropped just one game all season. The Bisons held on for a 5-4 win Friday over the surging Medicine Hat Cubs staving off three unanswered goals from the visitors in the final 20 minutes.
“The first two periods we dominated and I think we slowed in the third a little bit and kind of hurt ourselves with penalties,” said Bisons rookie forward Darren Bordt. “But we will be ready for playoffs with all of our depth.”
After Eddie Tracy opened the scoring for the Bisons, the host’s quick strike offence continued to push. Bison winger Spencer Samuel was left all alone in the slot and buried a powerplay goal and just 11 seconds later Bordt delivered a carbon copy tally to give Okotoks a commanding 3-0 lead.
“We all crashed the net expecting a rebound,” said Bordt, an Okotoks native. “As soon as it was on my stick my instinct was to shoot. I’ve been told that all year by the coaches — the quick release and I used it.”
The Bisons were up to their old tricks on the man-advantage in period two. On the same powerplay series Jordan Eddy tallied on a 5-on-3 and just 25 seconds later Jeremy Smith potted a tap-in from the left of the crease to give the Bisons a commanding 5-1 lead midway through the stanza.
Cubs head coach Brad Cobb lamented the gift-wrapped powerplay series in which the Bisons took control of the game with two goals in less than a minute.
“You can’t allow their top-end players to get that much ice and space,” Cobb said. “On the powerplay especially they’re going to make you pay eventually and they did.”
The parade to the penalty box bled into the third period. The Cubs took advantage of an early powerplay opportunity when former scoring champ Kyle Funk shimmied in his 32nd goal of the season 78 seconds into the frame. Then all-name-team frontrunner Raymond Pulvermacher made it interesting at the 3:20 mark when the big-bodied defenceman cut the deficit to 5-3.
The Bisons staved off the Cubs’ charge for the remainder of the period before a momentary lapse led to a Medicine Hat consolation goal with 17 seconds remaining from Liam Ginnell. Despite falling short the comeback attempt was not in vain, according to the Cubs bench boss.
“We have to take the positives out of this. We didn’t quit,” said Cobb. “They’re a championship hockey club so for us to not turn over and keep pushing back I’m proud of the boys.”
Resiliency has been at the forefront of the Cubs’ push for second place in the Southern Division as Medicine Hat is nipping at the heels of the Coaldale Copperheads for home ice-advantage in the playoffs.
Once the post-season starts the Cubs plan on seeing the Bisons again.
“That’s the goal,” Cobb said. “There’s no doubt Okotoks is a championship calibre team and we want to be there in the South finals.”
Before the Bisons reach such a point they will have to play the waiting game to see who they will meet in the second round of the playoffs. The Bisons, who closed out the regular season with a 13-4 romp over the Bears Sunday in Banff, are awaiting the winner of the best-of-three opening round series between the Strathmore Wheatland Kings and Cochrane Generals.
The Bisons finished the regular season comfortably in first place in the Southern Division with a 33-2-2-1 record, 20 points ahead of the second-place Copperheads.
Head coach Mike Hannigan said it will be a challenge to combat rink rust during the Bisons’ extended break from game action.
“We’re playing a couple games against the (Okotoks) Midget AAs and will have a couple inter-squad games just to stay in game shape,” he said.
“We just have to keep our heads in it. We really only have one more week (off) than anybody else.”
The post-season schedule for the Heritage Junior Hockey League is yet to be released. For the latest information go to www.okotoksbisons.com.
The High River Flyers’ hopes for a miraculous path into the post-season were officially put on ice on Friday. The Cochrane Generals’ 5-2 win over the Banff Bears clinched the Southern Division team the fifth and final playoff spot.