Drillers grind out first home win
Hockey: Okotoks edges Stony Plain Eagles 5-4 in OT to snap skid
By: Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 06:00 am
After twice knocking on the door of a home triumph, the third time was the charm for the Okotoks Drillers.
Jesse Todd’s hat-trick marker 1:50 into overtime gave the Drillers a 5-4 victory over the Stony Plain Eagles for the host’s first win in franchise history at the Scott Seaman Rink on a brisk Saturday evening.
“Todder, what a great hot hand he’s got right now, every thing he touches is going in the net,” said Drillers captain Curtis Billsten, who set up the game-winner. “I just fired the puck up to the point not knowing who it was to get a shot and luckily it was Todd, the guy with the hot hand.”
The overtime heroics snapped a five-game losing streak for the Drillers who went winless in November with their final three losses of the one-goal variety.
“We in the dressing room feel we could have won four straight. Two against Bentley and one against Innisfail, they were all one-goal games,” said Billsten. “We clearly hurt ourselves with discipline and more or less immaturity.
“Getting that first win at home and just getting out of that skid is huge.”
The prospects of breaking the streak looked bleak in the early stages of the Chinook Hockey League thriller.
Stony Plain opened the scoring on the powerplay through Justin Christian and doubled their lead 20 seconds into the second frame on a Landon Vegter marker.
“When we stay out of the box we win games,” Billsten said. “Tonight it was clear, we take penalties and they got up early in a game where we outplayed them the majority of the game.”
Todd, whose potted five goals in his last two games, ignited the Drillers offence midway through the middle frame after being set up by linemates Michael Kneeland and Tyler Helfrich. After Stony Plain reclaimed its two-goal advantage through Tyler Herder, the Drillers bounced back with a Kneeland tally and a powerplay goal from Jeff Sapieha to even the game at 3-3 after 40 minutes.
Okotoks took its first lead of the game eight minutes into the third period when Todd spun around and threw a puck on goal from the sharpest of angles and banked it off an Eagle past a helpless Clayton Wilburn in goal.
Drillers netminder Gerry Festa looked to have preserved the victory on a remarkable acrobatic glove save off a wicked deflection in the final four minutes, but the Eagles would not go gently into that frigid Alberta night.
Vegter was the benefactor of a turnover at the Drillers blueline and buried his second of the evening to send the game to four-on-four overtime.
“It was frustrating, but we weren’t too down. We knew there was still overtime,” said Drillers defenceman John Gibson, an Okotokian. “It would have been devastating if we lost in overtime.”
A full roster ensured that didn’t happen. Okotoks carried four forward lines and three defence pairs into the contest and welcomed key forwards Kneeland, Kyle Reed and Branden Gay back to the fold.
“They were a little short on their bench, I think they only had nine forwards so it makes a big difference,” Gibson said. “We had a tough start. They were outshooting us bad. We just kind of wore them down, kept hitting, kept skating.”
Okotoks will look to keep its foot on the gas in a busy week of travels. The Drillers are in Innisfail tonight, Dec. 11, before back-to-back contests with the Fort Saskatchewan Chiefs and Bentley Generals, on Dec. 14 and 15.
The Drillers’ next home date and last game before the holidays is Saturday Dec. 21 when they welcome the Innisfail Eagles to the Scott Seaman Rink for an 8 p.m. puck-drop.
For the latest scores and schedules visit chinookhockeyleague.com