Oilers get shot at redemption in first round
Hockey: Okotoks faces Olds Grizzlys in best-of-five playoff series
By: By Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 06, 2013 11:38 pm
Game 1: Olds at Okotoks, Pason Centennial Arena, March 6 at 7 p.m.
Game 2: Olds at Okotoks, Pason Centennial Arena, March 7 at 7 p.m
Game 3: Okotoks at Olds, Olds Sportsplex, March 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Game 4: Okotoks at Olds, Olds Sportsplex, March 10 at 7:30 p.m. (If necessary)
Game 5: Olds at Okotoks, Pason Centennial Arena, March 12 at 7 p.m. (If necessary).
By Remy Greer
The Okotoks Oilers will have an early opportunity to exorcise playoff demons when the post-season gets underway tonight.
A year after being ousted from the playoffs in a second-round upset to the Olds Grizzlys, the Oilers will have a crack at redemption in the first-round best-of-five South Division quarter-finals, starting tonight at Pason Centennial Arena in Okotoks.
“We’re extremely excited. We’ve been looking forward to it pretty much since they knocked us out last year,” said second year Oiler blueliner Jordan Swenson. “We think this is the perfect opportunity.”
Swenson, one of 10 returning players for the Oilers, said this year’s version of the club is better equipped to handle the physical, grinding style characteristic of the Grizzlys.
“They always have their own identity and like to be a grind it out team and like to play the body every chance they get and this year we match up a little better against them,” Swenson said. “We’re a tougher team all-around and I think it’s going to be a good series, again.”
Oilers head coach James Poole insisted there are no remnants of last year’s defeat surrounding the organization, noting the unique makeup of his 2012-13 roster.
“It’s a brand new room and there’s a different attitude on the team,” Poole said. “Hopefully, we’ve learned from that and that’s our job as coaches to make sure we’re prepared mentally and physically for every game and every series.
“It’s a brand new season and this room is pretty excited about what’s in front of them.”
Twenty-year-old blueliner Scott Bolland said last year’s playoff disappointment reinforced the importance of doing all the little things on the ice.
“I think going into the playoffs that grit is
definitely a big part and the little things in the regular season that you don’t really notice become more important,” Bolland said. “Near the blueline is most important. Getting it in, getting it out of our defensive zone. And our defensive play from last year to this year I think is a lot better.”
The numbers back up the statement.
Okotoks, with just 153 goals against in the 60-game regular season, was the second most difficult team to score against and own the fifth-ranked penalty kill.
Special teams are not a strength for the Grizzlys, owners of the league’s worst penalty kill percentage at 76.3 per cent, along with the 15th ranked powerplay.
However, the Grizzlys can be a dangerous team five-on-five and do feature considerable firepower up-front in top-10 scorers Matthew Marcinew and Brandon Clowes. Secondary scoring comes from the likes of Dylan Hubbs, Spencer Dorowicz and Damien Kulynych.
Grizzlys head coach Brett Hopfe said there’s been considerable roster turnover in Olds, with just seven players remaining from last season, but the trademark work ethic of his club remains.
“We’ve made a lot of moves up-front. We wanted to get the right pieces in,” Hopfe said. “It’s taken us a while to build some chemistry, but I feel like since Jan. 10 we have really come on hard and played pretty well.”
Hubbs, who has fashioned himself into an Oiler killer over the years and was Olds’ playoff most valuable player the past two years, and sole returning defenceman Chris Stachiw are two players to watch, Hopfe said.
Noting the lineup changes over the calendar year on both sides, the Olds bench boss said he is excited for the next chapter in what is becoming a heated rivalry between the South Division clubs. Okotoks has never won a playoff series with Olds, losing out in the 2009 quarterfinals as well as last year.
“Okotoks and Olds in the past five or six years it seems like we’ve been building something special between our two organizations,” Hopfe said. “We realize they’re a very good team this year and have made a lot of changes from last year. We’re just excited to extend the rivalry here.”
The Oilers dominated the Grizzlys in the regular season, sweeping the season series 6-0 and outscoring Olds by a margin of 23-10 in the six meetings.
“It gives us a ton of confidence and hopefully it puts some doubt in their mind that we’re a lot tougher team than we were last year,” Swenson said. “Hopefully, we can carry that into playoffs and take it to them every game.”