Bisons locked up with hard-hitting Flyers

Hockey: Southern final tied 1-1

By: Remy Greer

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 12, 2014 05:48 pm

Jordan Verlage/OWW

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Home-ice is proving to be quite the advantage in the Heritage Junior Hockey League semifinals.

The High River Flyers evened the Southern finals at one-game a piece after holding off the hard-charging Okotoks Bisons 3-2, Sunday night at a packed Bob Snodgrass Recplex.

“We stuck to our game plan and didn’t let them get to us like we did last game,” said Flyers defenceman Keaton Lackten. “It is going to be tough to win in their barn, they’ve got a lot of momentum there and same with us here. We’ve just got to stay focused.”

High River had its eye on the prize early in Game 2 and were rewarded early through a Dawson Lane tally just six minutes after puck drop. The visitors would get back into the contest after killing off a five-on-three Flyers powerplay when Bisons sniper Phil Dillon collected the puck off a face-off and beat Tyler Fornwald on a sublime wrap-around deke.

The Flyers reversed the momentum moments after the first-intermission. On the powerplay, sniper Alex Pronchuk found the back of the net just 18 seconds into the period.

High River doubled its advantage minutes later when blueliner Keaton Lackten had all day to line up a massive slap shot from the top of the point and beat Bisons tender Alex Bilton.

“The puck came out and I saw a lane and guys were driving the net and I just put it low on net,” Lackten said. “And it just happened to go in.”

Okotoks would spend the remaining 30 minutes throwing up a shooting gallery at Fornwald, who seemed to have an answer for everything thrown at him highlighted by a two-pad stack on Brooker Pretty Youngman.

The Bisons would finally breakthrough with 4:34 left in the contest when Josh Haley’s 10-foot snap shot found a hole in Fornwald’s armour. It was almost a tie-game on the next shift, but Kristian Ayoungman’s shot was denied by the crossbar.

Despite outshooting the hosts 27-9 over the final two periods, Okotoks found itself on the wrong-end of the feisty tilt.

“It just comes down to us not bearing down. I think we’re used to the regular season where we’re going to get tons of chances,” Dillon said. “It’s playoffs we’re not going to get those, you’ve got to score the ones you get.

“They were blocking a lot and not giving us the time and space … and we hit a few posts which didn’t really help.”

Neither did spending half the game killing penalties, as Okotoks found itself on nine shorthanded situations in Sunday’s one-goal loss.

“That (discipline) has been our biggest thing all year,” Dillon said. “We’ve got to stay out of the box and do a better job killing. We work on killing a lot.”

Okotoks drew first blood in the foothills derby in Friday’s spirited Game 1 in front a raucous crowd at Murray Arena.

Goals from Kevan Mikkelsen, Dillon and Darren Bordt along with a 37-save shutout from Bilton led to the 3-0 victory for the three-time defending league champions.

Trailing 2-0 entering the final frame, the Flyers poured it on and were poised to cut into the lead before Bordt stole the puck at his own blueline, turned on the afterburners and beat Fornwald on a high inside shot for a backbreaking marker.

“It was the end of my shift so I was pretty tired, but in a game like this tired means nothing to me,” Bordt said after Game 1. “I couldn’t believe it went in. Coach has been telling me to shoot a little more all year so they’re happy I put it on net.

“They had lots of momentum there so that was a pretty big goal and it was nice to put them down with all their fans here.”

Bilton would preserve the shutout by stopping High River’s Tanner Franson on a penalty shot with 52 seconds remaining.

Game 3 was Tuesday night in Okotoks, after the Western Wheel’s press time. Game 4 is Friday night in High River with Game 5 to follow on Sunday in Okotoks, 1:15 p.m. at Murray Arena.

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