Oilers take it on the chin at home

Hockey: Okotoks drops pair of division games on abysmal weekend

By: Remy Greer

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014 08:38 pm

Okotoks Oiler Connor Hartley tries to deflect a point shot past Brooks Bandits goalie Michael Fredrick as Bandit Brandon Bruce braces for contact in the middle. The top-seed Brooks beat Okotoks 6-1 on Saturday at Pason <br />Centennial Arena to pick up its first win in five meetings with the Oilers this season.
Okotoks Oiler Connor Hartley tries to deflect a point shot past Brooks Bandits goalie Michael Fredrick as Bandit Brandon Bruce braces for contact in the middle. The top-seed Brooks beat Okotoks 6-1 on Saturday at Pason
Centennial Arena to pick up its first win in five meetings with the Oilers this season.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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The Okotoks Oilers’ chase for a division crown hit a major speed-bump on the weekend.

In front of a packed house at Pason Centennial Arena on Saturday night, the Oilers put forth a rather empty effort in dropping a 6-1 result to the first-place Brooks Bandits.

“We’re at home, we’re chasing down Brooks, Camrose is right on our tail and we weren’t ready to go for whatever reason,” said Oilers captain Robbie Fisher. “You’ve got 1,200 fans come in and we put in an effort like that. It’s embarrassing.

“We’ve got to be better for them. If they’re going to come out and pay money, we’ve got to be a lot better and we will be better. I guarantee that.”

Before the season high crowd of 1,216 could settle into their seats, the Bandits bulged the twine on sniper Anthony Petruzzelli’s tally 90 seconds into the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s South Division showdown.

“The puck seemed to just pop out low to me,” said Petruzzelli, a diminutive forward from Washington state. “I saw an opening short side and tried to throw it on net and luckily it got through.”

Two more pucks would get through the Oilers’ last line of defence as the Bandits established a 3-0 lead after just eight minutes and four shots on goal on markers from Alex Roberts and blueline dynamo Maddison Smiley.

“We just got the bounces going our way,” Petruzzelli said. “We’ve been talking a lot lately about shooting more pucks rather than trying to set up tic-tac-toe plays all the time so it was good to get all those pucks on net.”

Not so much for the host Oilers, who after a couple strong shifts in the first period quickly found themselves behind the eight-ball with a demoralizing 3-0 deficit.

“When you’re struggling you’re waiting for something good to happen,” Fisher said. “We started off and our first couple shifts went well and then I think we got deflated once that first one went in and didn’t respond the way we had to.

“Our compete level wasn’t good enough that’s what it came down to. We sucked.”

The first place Bandits kept the foot on the gas in the middle stanza and increased the lead to four on Petruzzelli’s second of the contest on a wicked wrist-shot from the slot.

Okotoks showed signs of life to end the second frame and were finally rewarded for their efforts five minutes into the third period when Rhett Gardner chipped the puck over Brooks’ Michael Fredrick.

Brooks ensured nothing would materialize as new acquisition Austin Plevy converted a turnover at the Oilers’ blueline and Smiley added his second on a late five-on-three powerplay to put the game to bed.

Brooks’ five-goal victory was its first in five meetings with the Oilers this season and increased the South Division kingpins’ stranglehold to 10 points on Okotoks.

“It’s good confidence for us going into the end of the year and we’ll probably see them in playoffs so it’s a good confidence boost for us,” Petruzzelli said.

Dropping its first meeting to Brooks this season, in convincing fashion, resulted from a lack of physicality from the struggling Okotoks club.

“The way we’ve had success against Brooks in the past is by being physical and it just wasn’t there,” said Oilers head coach James Poole. “A team like that when you try to play a skill game against them, they’re going to win that battle.”

It was far from picture perfect hockey from the green-and-gold 24 hours earlier on home ice as the surging Camrose Kodiaks put up a 6-3 drubbing on Okotoks.

“We definitely weren’t ready to play,” said Poole. “The first period was really disappointing, the effort level, defensively we were just standing around and watching.”

The Kodiaks established a 3-0 lead in the opening frame on goals from ex-Oiler Braeden Salverda as well as Ryker Leer and Tanner Tyndall.

After Camrose extended the advantage to four, Oilers rookie Matt McNair potted his first goal in Junior to spark a mini-comeback. Okotoks’ Ambrose Firkus further cut into the lead 10 seconds into the final frame, but late tallies from Tanner MacMaster and Leer put the game out of reach.

“This time of year every point matters and every shift matters. Every game is like a playoff game right now,” Fisher said on Saturday. “We have to figure it out and right this ship here.”

Okotoks picked up the pieces for a bounce-back 6-3 win over the Calgary Canucks, Monday at Max Bell Arena.

John Edwardh, rookie forward Matt McNair, Connor Hartley, Jordan Swenson and Rhett Gardner all scored for the visiting Oilers to set the stage for winger Kevin Jenken’s first Junior tally in the third period.

Former Oiler Mitch Amatto led the Canucks with a one-goal, two-point effort.

Netminder Keelan Williams made 21 saves to preserve his sixth win.

The Oilers are home to a pair of rare visitors this weekend. The North Division’s Sherwood Park Crusaders face-off in Okotoks on Friday at 7 p.m. followed by the Whitecourt Wolverines on Sunday at 4:15 p.m. Both games are at Pason Centennial Arena.

For more information go to okotoksoilers.ca

rgreer@okotoks.greatwest.ca


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