Bantam Oilers sweep to league finals
Hockey: Okotoks upsets top-seed Wheatland to win North banner
Wednesday, Mar 12, 2014 05:48 pm
Relentless puck pursuit has guided the Okotoks Bantam AA Oilers to a second straight appearance in the league finals.
Okotoks upset the top-seed Wheatland Warriors in a two-game sweep to win the North Division banner and advance to the South Central Alberta Hockey League finals after a 4-1 series-clinching victory, Saturday night at Murray Arena.
“We earned it,” said Oilers sniper Booker Chacalias. “We haven’t lost a game since December since we last played them and we were ready for revenge because we hadn’t beat them all year.”
Playoffs are a different animal.
Finishing 0-2-1 in the regular season versus their geographic rivals from Strathmore, the Oilers won twice in just over 24 hours to book their ticket to the league finals.
In front of a boisterous home crowd, the Oilers jumped out of the gate in Game 2 with Ryan Partaker giving the hosts a one-goal lead after 20 minutes.
They would add some much-needed insurance late in the second period when Chacalias had space on the right hashmarks to wire it past Wheatland’s Matthew Schafer on the powerplay.
“Our defenceman got across and fed me backdoor and I just put it where it needs to be,” Chacalias said. “I think it took the life out of them early and that’s what we needed to do.”
It would be a three-goal game before the end of the period when gritty forward Ryan Bedard won a puck-battle in the slot and fired the puck past the Warriors netminder.
Facing elimination, the Warriors pushed back strong in the final frame and were rewarded shortly after the start of the period when Joel Krahenbil broke Okotoks goaltender Josh Ruigrok’s shutout bid.
Wheatland threatened further when it was gifted a four-minute powerplay midway through the period, failing to muster any premium scoring chances.
Okotoks put the game and series to bed with just over six minutes on the clock when blueliner Michael Lang’s seeing-eye wrist-shot from the point bulged the twine to complete the three-goal victory.
“We kept our heads in it and didn’t focus on seeds, we focused on our game and what we had to do win,” said Bedard, Okotoks’ alternate captain. “Just to keep going on pucks.”
The Oilers took control of the series, a rematch of last year’s league finals also won by Okotoks, after stealing home-ice from the Warriors by taking Game 1 in a 6-2 romp on Friday in Strathmore. Hunter Young stopped 32 of 34 shots and six different Oilers contributed to the offensive attack with Chacalias, Bedard, Partaker, Carter Harris, Noah Wakeford and Lang all finding the back of the net.
“We were just relentless,” said Bedard, a tenacious winger. “We kept shooting pucks and they went in.”
Standing in the way of the Oilers in the league final is the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
Before the Oilers begin their repeat bid, they have some unfinished business at the Bantam AA Major provincial tournament after crashing out at the semifinal stage last year.
Okotoks is grouped alongside Peace River, St. Albert and Sherwood Park in Group B of the Bantam AA tourney, March 13-16 in Edmonton.
For more information on the Hockey Alberta provincials go to hockeyalberta.ca