Flyers threatening Bisons divisional lead
Hockey: High Rivers fourth win over Okotoks has team two points back
By: Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Dec 04, 2013 06:00 am
The Okotoks Junior B Bisons better start glancing in the rear-view mirror.
There’s a hard charging locomotive clipping at their heels for divisional supremacy as the High River Flyers’ fourth win of the season over top-seed Okotoks, a 4-1 victory Sunday at the Murray Arena, has them just two points back of tops in the division.
“It’s something this team has never really done so we’re really excited to play on Friday and get a chance to maybe tie them for first,” said Flyers captain Ryan Midtdal. “It would be huge not only for the team, but for the community after what happened this year.
“It’s something that still affects the community today and I hope that we’re building up a little bit of the spirits around town.”
High River (12-6) won’t have to wait long for an opportunity to climb into a share of the division lead as the teams meet again on Friday in High River. The Bisons (13-5) make the 15-minute trek to High River for their fifth meeting with the Flyers, Friday at 8 p.m. at the Bob Snodgrass Recplex.
The Flyers’ 4-1 win on Sunday was easily the most competitive of the four meetings this season, where the visitors relied on opportunistic offence and stellar goaltending from Tyler Fornwald to win the season series with Okotoks, with two more face-offs still on the schedule.
“I felt like we battled a lot more, we had a better effort outing against these guys this time around,” said Bisons captain Michael Savage. “It’s a tough break when you get some of the bounces going their way and maybe some calls missed, but we’re going to have to win more battles next time we play them to get two points.”
High River had the bounces going in its favour to start the contest. After Okotoks stalled on two powerplay opportunities in the first 10 minutes, the Flyers made good on a touch of fortune when a bouncing puck got past Bison Curtis Robinson in front of goal and landed on the stick of league-leading sniper Alex Pronchuk for his first of two goals in the game.
The Flyers doubled the advantage in the second period when Pronchuk was robbed by Alex Bilton on a partial break before Midtdal was there to scoop in the rebound. Pronchuk added an insurance marker early in the third period when he snapped a wrist-shot from 30-feet out for his league leading 26th goal.
Okotoks answered shortly thereafter when Kevan Mikkelsen found a hole in Fornwald’s armour on a short-side snapshot on the powerplay.
The Bisons had momentum clearly on their side after Savage exchanged blows with Flyer Trey Twigg, in a spirited tilt with the Okotoks captain earning a clear decision.
It failed to materialize into anything concrete for Okotoks as Fornwald shook off the Mikkelsen tally to shut the door on a late comeback attempt, setting the stage for Mathew Busby’s empty-netter with 22 seconds on the clock.
“You just forget about the goal, move on and keep playing,” said Fornwald, after picking up his fourth win over the Bisons this season. “Our penalty kill was really good today and our defence really stepped up and didn’t give their scorers a lot of time.
“I like playing against them. This year I’m the go-to-guy against Okotoks and it’s been fun.”
As the Flyers notched their sixth straight win, the Bisons were left soul searching after coming up blank for a fourth time in as many tries with High River.
“It’s hard when a team is going to take penalties against you and you aren’t going to make them pay for it,” Savage said. “(Fornwald) has been playing well, but at the same time a lot of the shots we’re taking weren’t quality shots. A lot were hitting him in the chest where we should be picking corners and going for rebounds.”
It was an up-and-down weekend on home ice for the Bisons after earning a thrilling come-from-behind 6-5 win over the Cochrane Generals in a shootout on Friday.
Phil Dillon and Kristian Ayoungman both scored in the shootout to seal the two-points. Mikkelsen, Darren Bordt, Chris Couper, Zak Johns and Mark McLeod scored in regulation. Bilton shook off a tough start to stand on his head in overtime and in the shootout for his eighth win of the campaign.
Okotoks will look to get back to its winning ways on home ice on Sunday, following the High River tilt. Okotoks closes out the weekend schedule with an afternoon date versus the upstart Banff Bears. Puck drop is 1:15 p.m. at Murray Arena.
For more information on the Bisons go to okotoksbisons.com