Bantam Oilers repeat as champs
Hockey: Okotoks triumphant in winner-take-all Game 5
Wednesday, Apr 02, 2014 06:00 am
It was a comeback worthy of a league banner.
The Okotoks Bantam AA Oilers took the long way home in scoring three unanswered third period goals to edge the Lethbridge Hurricanes 5-3 in the winner-take-all Game 5 of the South Central Alberta Hockey League final to repeat as champions.
“We were thinking back to the Wheatland series and the provincials where we came back from a four-goal lead,” said Oilers forward Carter Harris. “We just thought we came back from that, we can come back from this.”
Especially in a series where no lead was safe as the Hurricanes won-back-to-back games on home ice to fight off elimination and force the series to go the distance in front of packed and raucous crowd at the Murray Arena on Thursday.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking, pretty intense and you could hear all the fans which gets you going and you have to use that energy,” said Oilers alternate captain Adam Fyten. “We were just focused on getting pucks deep and burying a couple goals.”
The gritty forward put matters into his own hands by opening the scoring in the first-period when he chipped the puck over the glove of Hurricane goalie Josh Breznik. Fyten doubled his money in the middle frame when his light deflection found its way through a sea of bodies and into the back of the net.
Then the Hurricanes did what they’ve done all series, bounce back with gumption.
Ty Greer got Lethbridge on the board with a breakaway tally, lifting the puck over the glove of Oilers netminder Hunter Young. Hurricanes forward Cal Atwood followed suit at the end of the frame when he was Johnny on the Spot to tap a rebound home.
Lethbridge completed the comeback before the fans settled into their seats for the final frame as Aiden Peacock’s shot took a favourable bounce and trickled past Young just 12 seconds into the third period.
The Oilers could be forgiven for the palpable feeling of déjà vu as the Hurricanes’ resilience mirrored that of Game 4, where the underdogs erased a 3-0 deficit to avoid elimination on home ice on March 25.
“We just thought about how we felt in Game 4,” said Oilers captain Brandt Black. “We didn’t want to feel like that again so we just went out there and played as hard as we could.”
Fyten, who had his fingerprints all over the contest, was at the centre of action again. After registering the first two markers for the Oilers, he received a game-misconduct for boarding early in the final stanza and found himself listening to the thrilling finish from the dressing room.
“I was pretty disappointed with myself, felt sorry for all the guys that I took that penalty,” Fyten said. “I was confident they could win the game.”
For good reason.
Nearing the end of the five-minute penalty kill for Fyten’s major, the Oilers turned momentum back in their favour and would even the contest at 3-3 with aggressive shorthanded play. Harris did great work to get the puck deep and set the stage for Black’s tying marker when the Oilers captain was left alone in the slot.
“It bounced off the boards and into the slot and got on my stick and I just shot where the goalie wasn’t,” said Black. “It felt great, That was the turning point.”
Okotoks took the lead for good minutes later when speedy winger Jackson Salt showed some spice in taking the puck to the net with authority, leading to a rebound tap-in for Harris in what would hold up as the game-winner.
Desperate to get back in the contest, the ever-resilient Hurricanes found themselves in penalty trouble in the dying moments. Oilers winger Ryan Partaker then put the finishing touches on the three-goal comeback when he fired a low-shot stick side with less than two minutes on the clock, putting any thoughts of a Hurricane surge to rest.
For Black, Harris, Partaker and blueliner Kale Hawryluk, the championship extends their prolific run of league banners to seven straight seasons, dating back to Atom 1.
“We’ve always been friends and always work together a lot,” said Hawryluk. “It was hard, we had to work for it. It wasn’t going to come easy.
“It felt good to beat them out and show them what we’ve got.”