Oilers get early jump on season

Hockey: Okotoks hosts third annual pre-season tournament

By: Remy Greer

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014 06:00 am

Okotoks Oiler Matt McNair collides along the boards with a pair of Brooks Bandits last season. Okotoks and Brooks play Aug. 30 to close out the Oilers' pre-season tourney.
Okotoks Oiler Matt McNair collides along the boards with a pair of Brooks Bandits last season. Okotoks and Brooks play Aug. 30 to close out the Oilers' pre-season tourney.
Remy Greer/OWW

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Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, even in hockey.

The Okotoks Jr. A Oilers will be competing for attention when they host the third annual Pre-Season Tournament, Aug. 28-30 at Pason Centennial Arena, with other Alberta Junior Hockey League clubs getting in on the act.

“We’re the first team in the league that started doing it and now it seems like almost every team is involved in a tournament now,” said Oilers head coach and general manager James Poole. “There is competition in terms of getting the scouts to your tournament. It helps that we’ve got three other really good programs involved, which has always been an attraction for the scouts.”

Lining up opposite the Oilers will be perennial powerhouses in the Fort McMurray Oil Barons and Brooks Bandits as well as the defending South division champs, the Drumheller Dragons.

The larger profile of the Alberta Junior Hockey League during the exhibition season could draw even more attention from collegiate scouts albeit more fleetingly.

“The fact there is four tournaments going in the same weekend can also be a good thing because the scouts know there is a lot of tournaments going on in Alberta,” Poole added. “We maybe don’t get (the scouts) for the three days anymore, but we see a lot more over the three days, maybe they pop in for a day or two days.”

Those viewings can be the first steps towards scholarships. The 2013 tournament buoyed the collegiate hopes for Oilers stars Tariq Hammond and Jared D’Amico, who committed to the University of Denver and University of Alaska-Anchorage, respectively.

From an evaluation standpoint, the four-team showcase also gives the Oilers brass a good look at the strength and weaknesses of those vying to make the Junior club and how they compare to some of the league’s best.

“We’re going against our two biggest rivals in terms of Drumheller and Brooks and this year is going to be a different year because we’ve seen a lot of turnover,” Poole said. “Brooks is going to be a completely different team, Drumheller is losing quite a few of their players. Fort McMurray is hosting the (Western Canada Cup) so we expect them to be really strong.

“It’s good in the sense that we can engage ourselves and see how our young players match-up against some good competition.”

The tournament finale could be an on-ice reunion of sorts for Oilers goaltender Devon Fordyce. The 20-year-old helped the Bandits to their RBC championship during the 2012-13 campaign.

“It’s the first chance of many throughout the season. It will be a good experience to see what they’re like,” said Fordyce. “I know a few of the guys on the team still and I’m sure they coach pretty well the same way so I will know a little about them.

“You’re always competing against guys you know no matter where you are. It’s not a huge difference playing a team like Brooks where I’ve played before or any other team I know guys on… It would be nice to get a shot to get back at Brooks and hopefully take some points and set the tone in exhibition.”

The Oilers’ pre-season tournament goes Aug. 28 to Aug. 30 at Pason Centennial Arena. Okotoks plays the Oil Barons on Aug. 28 at 7:45 p.m., the Dragons at 5 p.m. on Aug. 29 and closes tournament play on Aug. 30 at 6 p.m. versus the Bandits.

Tickets are $5 per game, weekend passes are $20.

For ticket information call 403-995-2255 or log on to okotoksoilers.ca.


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