Oilers bear down on playoff sweep
Hockey: Okotoks takes out Camrose in three games
Wednesday, Mar 15, 2017 06:00 am
On to the next one.
The Okotoks Oilers handed the Camrose Kodiaks their first ever opening-round playoff series sweep when they dispatched their division rivals in the minimum three games following Sunday’s 2-1 road victory without the services of top blueliners Carson Beers and Jordan Davies.
“We knew we were a little shorthanded on the back end,” said Oilers head coach Tyler Deis. “We just wanted to make sure our forwards were forechecking hard and that we were playing pretty disciplined hockey.”
Beers, serving the first of a two-game suspension for a cross-check on Kodiak Josh Zablocki, and Davies, sidelined due to injury, saw their minutes eaten up by veterans Reece Soukoroff, Riley Mathies along with the freshmen trio of Jacob Bernard-Docker, Ayden Roche-Setoguchi and Ryan Roberts.
“Those five D we had playing there played big minutes,” Deis added. “They answered the call and had phenomenal games.”
The defensive battle in Game 3 saw Nolan Thompson open the scoring on a penalty shot late in the middle frame. Jordan Xavier added a little insurance on an even-strength marker that would hold up as the game-winner after Camrose’s Cooper Johnson cut the lead in half with just under three minutes left in regulation.
Riley Morris made 28 saves in the clinching victory and stopped 76 of 80 overall in the best-of-five series to post a sparkling .950 save percentage.
Camrose’s top snipers Bryson Traptow and Mackenzie Bauer were kept off the scoreboard entirely in the set as the Kodiaks scored just four times in three games.
“We wanted to make sure we were keeping players and pucks to the outside in the defensive zone,” Deis said. “We made sure our F2 into the zone was committed to going back to the net, back to the middle of the ice. We played a tight defensive style of game.”
That was the case from the outset.
Okotoks put in some extra work to draw first blood in the series.
Tanner Laderoute scored just over eight minutes into double overtime as the Oilers eked out a 3-2 thriller in Game 1 of the series Thursday night at Pason Centennial Arena.
“When you’re that deep in the game you see the puck hit the netting and it’s all raw emotion,” said Laderoute. “You’re so happy, one that the game is over, but the first game of the playoffs is absolutely massive to set the tone.
“There’s no moral victories anymore, it’s great to see the team win that game.”
The first-ever opening round tilt between the traditional rivals played out as expected.
Hard hitting, back-and-forth hockey characterized the opener.
Zablocki opened the scoring in the opening frame while shorthanded after Okotoks’ Riley Morris was caught slightly out of position after playing the puck.
On the same powerplay Laderoute got the Oilers on the board on a rebound tally.
The hosts would take their first lead midway through the middle frame on a Carter Huber powerplay marker.
Defenceman TJ Brown fired the visitors back even with just over four minutes remaining in regulation.
Okotoks carried the play in the overtime and out-shot the Kods by a 21-7 count through over 28 minutes in two periods of extra action.
Finally, the levee broke off a face-off as Soukoroff got his shot through from the point and Laderoute deflected it into the near corner.
“We just regrouped after that first overtime,” Laderoute added. “We’ve got a lot of new guys here that have never played a playoff game nevermind a double overtime playoff game.
“We got together, told each other we need this game, told each other what we need to do and then did it.”
One day later and a world apart.
Following an airtight double overtime thriller the Oilers put an exclamation point on its consecutive triumph in a 7-1 romp in Friday’s Game 2.
“We prepared really well for the game today,” said Oilers forward Austin Wong following Game 2. “We got our rest last night and came back really strong and they didn’t seem as ready.”
Wong opened the floodgates less than two minutes after puck-drop.
The rookie forward powered his way to the net and tapped in his own rebound for his first career playoff marker.
Trey DeGraaf would double the lead on a deflection midway through the frame and Nolan Thompson completed the opening period scoring when he crashed into the net to cash in his first of the post-season.
It only got worse for the visitors in the middle stanza.
DeGraaf slid in his second of the contest on the powerplay, the first of three on the man advantage in the period alone for Okotoks.
Beers, Laderoute and Wong added second period markers in the blowout.
The Okotoks Oilers know they will be starting Round 2 on Friday.
Just about everything else remains up in the air.
Okotoks will play the winner of the Calgary Canucks and Drumheller Dragons series as a result of the seventh-seed Olds Grizzlys pulling off the major upset in dispatching the Canmore Eagles in three games.
Olds takes on the top-seed Brooks Bandits in the other South semifinal.
“We finished the regular season and we play whoever is next,” Deis said.
“We’re smart enough to realize to win the South you’ve got to go through that team (Brooks). The next series is just going to get tougher and harder, whoever we play.”
If the Oilers play Drumheller they would host Game 1 on Friday. If it’s the Canucks who advance out of the survivor series, the Max Bell Centre in the Stampede City would be the venue for the series opener.
For the latest schedule information on the South semifinal series go to okotoksoilers.ca
The Okotoks Oilers have now swept three consecutive first-round playoff series over the Canmore Eagles in 2015, the Calgary Canucks in 2016 and the Kodiaks in 2017… In four playoff matchups with the Kodiaks the Oilers have won two series, both of them of the sweep variety with the other in a best-of-seven second-round win in 2013, a victory which vaulted Okotoks to the South final.