Saints hand Oilers heartbreaking loss

Hockey: Top ranked Spruce Grove steals two points on last second goal

By: Remy Greer

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

Jordan Verlage/OWW

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The Okotoks Jr. Oilers were reminded just how cruel a game hockey can be when a momentary lapse in concentration occurs at the worst possible time.

As overtime beckoned in a battle of Alberta Junior Hockey League heavyweights, Saturday at Pason Centennial Arena, Spruce Grove Saint Carson Samoridny found a seam behind the Oilers’ defence and beat the buzzer and broke a 2-2 deadlock on a breakaway marker with just 0.3 seconds on the clock.

“It was kind of a broken play by our blueline and I just broke and was lucky enough to get the puck on my stick and scored,” said Samoridny on the last second tally. “I knew it was getting close to the end, probably about the last 10 seconds, but didn’t know how much time was left. I was just focused on trying to score there.

“It was nice to see that one go in.”

Not so much for the hosts as Okotoks was skating stride for stride with Canada’s number-one ranked Saints before the gut wrenching Samoridny tally.

“As I told the team after the game there are two ways you can look at it,” said Oilers head coach James Poole. “You can feel sorry for yourself for all the hard work you put in and not getting rewarded for it or you can say how do we give a breakaway up in the last five seconds?”

“To me, right now, the approach is how do you give up a breakaway in the last five seconds?”

There’s a reason hockey coaches espouse the call to play to the final whistle and not a moment earlier. All it takes is one split second decision, one millisecond of switching off mentally to change the outcome of a contest.

“It was a turnover at the offensive blueline and our d-men got caught flatfooted and let a guy get behind them,” Poole said. “These are things you don’t want to ever see happen, but you would rather it happen now than in the playoffs.

“That’s how we have to approach it, to learn from it and make sure the habits in terms of turnovers, in terms of positional play have to be their for 60 minutes.”

Through 59 minutes and 59 seconds, the Oilers gave the top team in the loop all it could handle.

Spruce Grove carried the play in the first-period and were rewarded midway through the frame when Jake Mykitiuk came out of the corner with the puck and wristed one past Oilers goalie Jared D’Amico.

Okotoks nearly evened the score when Ambrose Firkus was sprung on a clearcut breakaway only to be turned aside by the left shoulder of the Saints’ Kenny Cameron.

The Saints doubled their money less than two minutes into the second stanza when defenceman Brandon Hickey joined the rush and snapped a puck past an outstretched D’Amico.

Sensing the two points slipping away, Okotoks punched back 60 seconds later on the powerplay when Rhett Gardner found a wide-open John Edwardh for a Howitzer from a terrible angle near the goal-line.

Deuces were wild before the end of the frame after Kyle Krabben made a great second effort play to win a puck-battle and feed a cross-crease pass for Connor Hartley to wire into the top-corner, setting the scene for an even third period and Samoridny’s late-stage heroics.

“We did a better job on the forecheck (forced them) to turn some pucks over and our back-check was a lot better in the second and third,” Poole said. “They’re a very good hockey club … and I thought we got better and more confident as the game wore on and really started to work our cycle game, which is our strength.

“It’s unfortunate we couldn’t generate any quality scoring chances.”

For the Saints, owners of a gaudy 33-6-2 record, the two points salvaged a silver lining from a demanding weekend against the top-two clubs in the South that saw the team lose in Brooks one night prior.

“We played well in the first period. In the second and third we let up a little bit so it was nice to end the game that way,” Samoridny added. “And not have to go to overtime for the second day in a row.

“Okotoks is a very big and hard working team. They don’t like to give you too much in their zone and are always pressing in yours so you always have to be sharp.”

The Oilers are back at it on Tuesday night for a road date with the always truculent Olds Grizzlys. Okotoks’ next home game is Jan. 11 against the basement-dwelling Drayton Valley Thunder, at 7 p.m. at Pason Centennial Arena.

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