Playoff foes meet again

Hockey: Okotoks and Olds meet in post-season for third year in a row

By: Remy Greer

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 05, 2014 02:13 pm

Okotoks Oiler Josh Smith skates past Olds Grizzly Cale Brown during regular season action. The Oilers and Grizzlys square off in the first-round of the playoffs in a best-of-five series starting Thursday in Okotoks.
Okotoks Oiler Josh Smith skates past Olds Grizzly Cale Brown during regular season action. The Oilers and Grizzlys square off in the first-round of the playoffs in a best-of-five series starting Thursday in Okotoks.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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Series schedule:

Game 1: Olds at Okotoks (March 6, 7 p.m.)
Game 2: Olds at Okotoks
(March 7, 7 p.m.)
Game 3: Okotoks at Olds
(March 9, 7 p.m.)
*Game 4: Okotoks at Olds
(March 10, 7 p.m.)
*Game 5: Olds at Okotoks
(March 12, 7 p.m.)

It’s the ultimate playoff grudge match for the longest tenured Okotoks Oilers.

The Oilers and Olds Grizzlys best-of-five series matchup will be the third post-season meeting in as many years for Okotoks players eager to close their Junior careers by one-upping the Bears.

“We’ve played them three years in a row in my career. I lost to them my first year and we kind of gave them that payback last year,” said Oilers alternate captain Tariq Hammond. “It’s going to be a good series and I think we have a good chance to come out on top.

“This year there aren’t going to be any easy opponents in the playoffs so we’re going to have to bring our A-game every game.”

The Grizz have been more than worthy adversaries over the past two springs. The Oilers held on to win the best-of-five opening round series 3-2 in 2013, Okotoks’ first series victory over Olds in franchise history. The elusive series win sparked a long playoff run in Big Rock Country which saw Okotoks sweep Camrose and take the eventual national champion Brooks Bandits to seven games.

“It was hard-hitting, there were scrums between pretty much every whistle,” said veteran Okotoks rearguard Jordan Swenson. “There is a real hate between the two teams.

“I imagine it will be the same this year.”

The 2012 playoff round, a series that had everything from blowouts to overtime finishes to power outages postponing a game, went the way of the Grizzlys as Olds upset the heavily-favoured Oil in six-games in the South semifinals.

“They’re a physical team, they try to intimate you and a lot of times will go over the line and take some penalties,” said Oilers head coach/GM James Poole. “A lot of it is going to depend on the officiating and how they call the games so hopefully they crack down and call Olds on some of their tactics. If they do hopefully our powerplay can make them pay for it.”

The Grizzlys boast offensive firepower in 40-goal scorer Spencer Dorowicz, a league finalist for MVP and the co-winner of the scoring crown, as well as rookie-of-the-year Christopher Gerrie and fellow-freshman Kyle Star. If there is an area the Oilers can exploit it’s on the back-end, Poole added.

“They do have some good depth up-front and that’s definitely the strength of their team so defensively we have to be good,” Poole said. “Offensively we can expose perhaps some of their lack of depth on defence and their goaltending.”

Okotoks took the season series 5-1, but after winning all six games in the lead up to the postseason last year and finding a much tougher opponent come playoff time the team has learned not to put stock in past results.

“Playoffs is a completely different game and anything can happen so we’ve just got to take it one game at a time and play our game,” Swenson said. “To not get sucked into too much crap and not worry about what they’re doing, just worry about what we’re going to do.

“We think we match up really well with them. We’ve got a lot of speed up-front and our D and goaltending are really solid. They may have a bit of an advantage in the size department, but they’ve got to catch us to hit us so we’re looking pretty good.”

The other first-round matchups in the South Division are the third-seed Dragons versus the sixth-seed Calgary Mustangs and a juicy four-versus-five meeting of the Camrose Kodiaks and Canmore Eagles. The top-ranked Brooks Bandits have a bye through the first-round.

News and Notes

The Okotoks Jr. Oilers will be a little shorthanded to start the post-season.

Okotoks forwards Connor Hartley and Derek Thorogood were both injured during last week’s loss to the Calgary Mustangs and won’t be available for the beginning of the Grizzlys series. Okotoks head coach James Poole said Hartley is questionable to return during the series while Thorogood’s absence is expected to be much lengthier. Meanwhile, hard-nosed forward Tanner Ockey and defenceman Kyle Krabben are both expected to be healthy and ready for the start of the series.

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