UFA Bisons sweep away Flames in first round
Hockey: Midget AAA team advances to series with Red Deer
By: By Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013 06:00 am
Practice makes perfect.
The UFA Midget AAA Bisons earned a two-game sweep of the Calgary Flames Saturday at Father David Bauer Arena, after executing a set-play to perfection for division quarterfinal series-winning goal.
Okotokian Connor Tudor deftly deflected a low slapshot from Blackie’s Brady Reagan on the powerplay to give the visitors a 2-0 lead en route to a 3-1 victory in a two-game sweep.
“(Brady’s) got most of his goals with me in front. I know he likes to put it far side, that’s where he went with it,” said Tudor, who was put on the ice specifically to screen the goalie. “I just stood in front, held my ground and it went in.”
The Flames made it interesting when Vinnie Paquette broke Bisons netminder Richard Palmer’s shutout bid with 84 seconds remaining and more importantly cut the deficit to 2-1. After pulling their goalie Calgary lost a board battle in the Bisons’ zone and Connor Boyd buried the empty net goal to seal the win.
Tudor, the pivot on an all Okotoks line flanked by wingers Mark McLeod and Kurt Fraser, attributed the series clinching victory to strong fundamental hockey.
“Overall work ethic and sticking to the structures, for sure,” Tudor said. “The whole team stayed within the structures we set all year. Our powerplay got one goal and we just seemed like we had a lot more momentum coming into this game.”
The bad blood between the Alberta Midget Hockey League (AMHL) teams, who were 1-1 in the regular season meetings, was palpable in the playoff series. However, the Bisons made a point of keeping their composure and avoiding getting involved in verbal jousting sessions.
“Every chirp they gave us we just let it go and overall that was the biggest difference,” Tudor said. “They came in a little cocky and we showed them what’s what.”
The Bisons skated to a 4-2 win in the series opener, Thursday night in Strathmore. Mackenzie Bauer’s opening tally got the Bisons rolling and three power-play goals from Blackie’s Mason McCarty, Boyd and Okotoks’ McLeod, put out the Flames’ fire.
Palmer rebounded from allowing two first period markers to shut the door on Calgary.
“There were a little nerves in the first starting off, but luckily the team came out hard,” said Palmer, an Okotokian. “After that I was able to calm down and play my game and the team kept going.”
Scoring first is always a boon to team success, especially for the Bisons. The Midget AAA team has not lost a game this season after heading into the first intermission with a lead, something they managed to do in both playoff tilts.
“That’s our goal every game and whenever we do it, it works,” Palmer said.
Finishing the series in the minimum of two games was essential for the Bisons as they need as much time as possible to prepare for a second-round showdown with the Red Deer Chiefs. Red Deer is the top team in the AMHL and reigning Telus Cup national Midget AAA champions.
“It will be a very tough series. We have to come in just like we ended up here,” Tudor said. “We have to have everybody on board going 110 per cent. It’s playoff hockey, there’s going to be bumps and bruises, but you have to fight through it.”
The Chiefs (23-4-7) own the stingiest defence in the AMHL with just 55 goals allowed through the 34-game regular season. The Bisons are quite familiar with Red Deer as the Chiefs dominated their two regular season meetings by a 14-3 margin.
“We have to forecheck hard and can’t let them get any time in our zone,” Palmer said. “They drive the net hard and always set up back-door (passes), they move the puck and release it quick.”
The Bisons’ second round best-of-five series started Tuesday Feb. 26, but results were too late for press time. For the latest results and schedules go to www.amhl.ab.ca.