Bruising Bisons swarm Cubs

Hockey: Okotoks starts new year off with 5-2 defeat of Medicine Hat

By: Remy Greer

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 08, 2014 06:00 am

Okotoks Bison Zak Johns keeps his balance while trying to set a screen on Medicine Hat Cubs goalie Cole Shafer, Sunday at Murray Arena. The Bisons won 5-2 in their first game after the holiday break.
Okotoks Bison Zak Johns keeps his balance while trying to set a screen on Medicine Hat Cubs goalie Cole Shafer, Sunday at Murray Arena. The Bisons won 5-2 in their first game after the holiday break.
Remy Greer/OWW

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The Okotoks Jr. B Bisons carried their season long habit of finding ways to win into the new calendar year.

Heading into the third period tied at 2-2, the Bisons scored three unanswered goals to skate away with a well-earned 5-2 victory over the Medicine Hat Cubs in Okotoks’ 2014 debut, Sunday afternoon at Murray Arena.

“We came in and just said we’re tired of being so close to a team like this,” said Bisons forward Josh Haley. “We’re trying to be the elite team in the league and to be an elite team we need to play like one.

“We said we needed to get some goals and some insurance and we all went out and did it.”

Haley was at the centre of the offensive surge in the final frame and had his fingerprints all over Okotoks’ game-winning marker. The power forward evaded a Cub defender at the blueline to create a two-on-one rush and fed linemate Zak Johns a cross-crease tap-in with 14 minutes left.

“Their d-men tried to kill me, I somehow got around him and I saw Zak coming up so I slowed up and sent him a pass,” Haley said. “He knew where he was shooting it so it worked out well.”

The floodgates opened behind Medicine Hat’s Cole Shafer less than two minutes later when Kevan Mikkelsen took a pass of the boards in stride and scored on a deft backhand deke past the defenceless netminder. Luke Loomer added the late insurance marker when he caught Shafer wondering out of his net and fired into the yawning cage from 60 feet-out.

“We were coming off a two-week break so we wanted to come out and forecheck hard and play a solid d-zone,” said Bisons defenceman Tyson Arnholtz. “ To try and get the intensity up to get us in the game early.”

Okotoks came out with a purpose on Sunday with open-ice hits, violent board collisions and tenacious puck pursuit characterizing a spirited opening period. Haley got the Bisons on the board just 55 seconds into the contest.

The Cubs evened the score midway through the frame when Cole Stevenson forced a turnover at the blueline and streaked in to slide a breakaway goal past Okotoks’ Alex Bilton. Medicine Hat took the lead shortly thereafter when captain Cody Florkowski fired in a loose puck in the slot.

Okotoks came out with similar intensity in the second stanza and soon tied the game through Brooker Pretty Youngman’s five-hole one-touch pass off a great feed from Chris Couper to start a run of four unanswered tallies for the hosts.

For Arnholtz, setting a positive precedent in the first meeting this season with the Cubs was vital given the fact the South Division foes have two more dates to come in the regular season.

“It’s a bit of a rivalry, we played them in playoffs last year and it was a good match-up,” he said. “Playing them a couple more times we want to set the tone so that we go back into their barn and come out just as hard and get the same outcome.”

The victory gave the Bisons some breathing room atop the South standings with the second-place High River Flyers mired in a five-game losing skid and now lagging nine points behind in the race for first.

“Now that they’ve lost a couple games, we’ve got to get up as much as we can because they’re a good team and are unpredictable this year,” Arnholtz said. “They could come back and catch us any time.”

Next up for the Bisons is a Saturday road date with the North Division leading Stettler Lightning, their first meeting since Stettler skated out of Okotoks with a shootout win on Dec. 15. The Bisons then return home to host the winless Ponoka Stampeders on Sunday. Puck-drop is 1:15 p.m. at Murray Arena.

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