Playoff seeding coming down to the wire
Hockey: Oilers can clinch second with win in final two games
Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014 06:00 am
The season-long jockeying for position comes to a head this weekend for the Okotoks Jr. Oilers.
The battle for second in the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s South Division could come down to the last day when the Oilers and Drumheller Dragons lower the curtain on the regular season on Friday at Pason Centennial Arena.
After faltering in its first four meetings with the Dragons this season, the Oilers earned their first win of the campaign over Drumheller on Feb. 17.
“It’s almost a perfect situation for us,” said Oilers head coach James Poole. “One, now we have some confidence in beating them and two, it’s going to give us that playoff atmosphere to the game.
“It’s going to be a real important game for second place which will be important if we meet (Drumheller) in the second round in terms of home ice.”
If the script sounds familiar, well it is.
The Oilers edged the Camrose Kodiaks in their regular season finale last season to clinch second in the division and kept the momentum rolling to the league semifinals versus Brooks.
“It’s almost identical to last year and that helped us going into the playoffs,” Poole said. “Hopefully it gives us that experience of those tight, pressure filled games and gives us some confidence going into the playoffs.”
Drumheller is two points back of Okotoks in the race for second, meaning the Oilers control their own destiny with two games left to play – needing just two points to take hold of home-ice advantage through at least the first two rounds of the post-season.
Hard-nosed Oilers winger Ambrose Firkus said slaying the Dragons starts with an aggressive fore-check on their big-bodied blueliners.
“It will be the same thing, get pucks low and work their d-men,” said Firkus, whose potted nine goals and 30 points since joining the club. “Their defencemen are big, but they’re not very agile so if we get pucks behind them, we’ll work them low all night.”
Prior to Friday’s finale, the Oilers square off with the Calgary Mustangs on Thursday with an opportunity to lock up the second-seed via a two-point effort versus their South Division foes.
The Mustangs won the first three meetings of the season, though the Oilers have won the past two in convincing fashion – including a 5-1 win on Saturday.
“It’s got a lot to do with our heads,” Firkus said. “The last couple games against Drumheller and against (Calgary) they were pretty hard to beat for us and now it feels like we got over that hump and we’re ready to look forward to playoffs.”
Tradition is at stake this week for the green-and-gold.
Okotoks hasn’t finished lower than second in the South Division since its inaugural Alberta Junior Hockey League campaign in 2005-06.
“If we can beat the Mustangs then the last game is a non-issue,” said Oilers forward Derek Thorogood. “Hopefully we can do that.
“It’s huge. The Oilers have had it for eight years, either first or second, and it’s also pride for our team.”
Both the Thursday and Friday games are 7 p.m. starts at Pason Centennial Arena. For ticket information go to okotoksoilers.ca or contact the Oilers business office at 403-995-2255.