Undermanned Oilers earn second-seed
Hockey: Okotoks skates to 4-1 win over Drumheller to close season
Wednesday, Mar 05, 2014 02:13 pm
The Okotoks Oilers backed themselves into a corner and came out swinging.
Needing a win in their regular season finale to sew up the second-seed in the South Division, the Oilers produced a gutsy 4-1 win over the Drumheller Dragons in the battle for the number two-spot, Friday at Pason Centennial Arena.
Okotoks squandered an earlier opportunity to lock up the number-two seed when they dropped a 2-1 result to the visiting Calgary Mustangs on Thursday and lost key forwards Connor Hartley and Derek Thorogood to injury in the process.
“Our team is kind of funny that way. When the chips are on the line or we seem to be undermanned or have to show some character we’ve done that almost every time this year,” said Oilers head coach James Poole. “It was a disappointing game on Thursday because of how we played and the key injuries there too, but I was really pleased with the way we responded.
“And encouraged that despite the injuries we came out with a really solid effort against a good team.”
Following a scoreless opening frame against the Dragons, hard-nosed winger Ty Clay broke the goose-egg 41 seconds into the second period on the powerplay. Two minutes later Okotoks’ Mitch Collett was first to the puck on a scrambled draw to put home his fourth goal of the season and first in 24 games.
“It was a bit of a lucky one off the draw, I managed to put it on net and the goalie wasn’t expecting it,” said Collett. “Hopefully I can continue that throughout playoffs. It’s good to get one right at the end of the season.”
The Dragons, two points back of the Oilers with a genuine shot at second-spot entering the contest, fired back late in the frame when High River’s Colton Vannucci popped a rebound over an outstretched Jared D’Amico on the man-advantage to cut the lead in half.
Drumheller’s push back extended into the third period before an Oiler playing out of position rose to the occasion. Blueliner Josh Smith, skating as a forward for the injury-riddled Oilers, forced a turnover in the Dragons zone and sneaked the puck past Drumheller netminder Devin Buffalo. Okotoks’ Tariq Hammond then iced the result with an empty-netter with 46 seconds on the clock.
“We needed that game to lock-up second place and weren’t able to do it against the Mustangs so we all needed to bear down,” Collett said. “That’s exactly what we did.”
“Those guys (Hartley and Thorogood) are a big part of our lineup so coach let us know that everyone is going to have to step up and fill their role and I think everybody did.”
The victory extended Okotoks’ run of top-two divisional finishes to eight seasons and earned the team a first-round playoff matchup with the Olds Grizzlys.
The best-of-five series, a rematch of last year’s opening round clash in which the Oilers won in five games, gets underway Thursday night in Okotoks.
For full playoff schedule information go to okotoksoilers.ca