A hockey game unlike any had experienced before nearly yielded a priceless victory for Okotoks.
The Okotoks Bow Mark Oilers saw a third-period lead go up in smoke as the Canadian women’s Olympic hockey team scored twice unanswered to take a 4-3 result in the exhibition Esso Series Thursday night at WinSport.
“There was a lot of smiles, it wasn’t about we have to beat Team Canada, more go out and play our game and have fun,” said Bow Mark Oilers netminder Ty Tarvyd. “You only get this chance once in a lifetime and no matter what the outcome was I wanted to go out there and have some fun, battle and compete.
“At the end of the day I can say I stopped Brianne Jenner on a breakaway, made a few saves in the shootout. That kind of stuff is pretty cool to say and a big accomplishment.”
Canada iced an imposing line-up highlighted by a loaded front line of captain Marie-Philip Poulin flanked by superstar wingers Meghan Agosta and Natalie Spooner.
“That’s probably the most nervous I’ve been in a while,” said Bow Mark Oilers forward Nathan Bailer. “I knew there was going to be a pretty good crowd and on top of that you’re playing against some really skilled players. That was something that was definitely difficult for our team to get over.
“Poulin, seeing her in the Olympics, she’s crazy good. Playing against her was kind of like playing against the Sidney Crosby of women.”
Bailer proved to have the Midas touch in the first period.
The Foothills Composite Grade 12 student opened the scoring taking a cross-crease feed from Hunter Maximnuk and burying it on the powerplay.
“Scoring the first goal like that was pretty cool, especially against Olympians,” Bailer said. “The burst of emotions in the moment took over me, I had goosebumps. Not too many people get to say they’ve scored against future Olympians so that’s something I will take with me.”
Team Canada went into the intermission down one due largely to the heroics of Tarvyd who stopped Laura Stacey on a clear-cut breakaway and Jocelyne Larocque on the doorstep.
Canada continued to put on the pressure in the middle frame and executed with lethal efficacy on consecutive powerplay opportunities through Jenner and Agosta. Okotoks’ Jaevon Buschlen scored from a bad angle earlier in the period as the score was 2-2 after 40 minutes.
The Oilers regained the lead when High Riverite Alaister Standen found the back of the net on an off-man rush just two minutes into the final frame.
The lead wouldn’t last.
Canada used its foot-speed more and more in the late stages and got behind the Oilers defence on the rush leading to Jillian Saulnier’s tying goal and Stacey’s game winner on a breakaway midway through the final stanza.
“Our speed is definitely one of our assets and something we try to use as much as we can,” Stacey said. “Against a new team and different opponent we have to time our chips and get used to their foot speed and once we get used to that, get pucks deep and be physical and it really pays off us for us.”
The teams also played an exhibition overtime and shootout session.
Okotoks’ Joel Dawson notched the only goal in the shootout for the Oilers while Team Canada’s Sarah Nurse ended proceedings with a highlight reel tally.
“We wanted to make sure we respected everything that Hockey Canada is about,” said Bow Mark Oilers head coach Kevin Willison. “We wanted to make sure we came in here and be disciplined, worked hard and had fun and make sure we put on a good show.
“You’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They work hard, they’re tenacious and they never quit and as soon we let our guard down we either turned the puck over or they took it from us.”
Team Canada has paired intermittent action in the Alberta Midget Hockey League with international competition in the build up to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Team Canada is bidding for its fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal.
“The level of competition against the midget boys has been unbelievable for us,” Stacey said. “It’s really getting us ready, getting us prepared for our goal in February and I think every day if we keep pushing and playing our game at the best and highest possible level it’s going to be great for us.”
The Canadian women boast a 5-3-1 record versus AMHL opposition and are in the midst of a four-game winning streak in the provincial loop.
“Every single day we’ve made small strides,” Stacey added. “We’ve really focused on little details of our game and slowly, but surely these small details and progressions forward are making a huge difference for us.”
Following the excitement of their first Mac’s Midget tournament over the Christmas holidays, the Oilers get another crack at Team Canada on home-ice
The rematch is set for Jan. 3 at Pason Centennial Arena.
“We’ve got to really seehow skilled they are and how well they can move the puck and track their bodies as well as the puck,” Bailer said. “We will come in with the same mindset we did today, but we will understand exactly what they’re going to come with this time.”
The Okotoks Bow Mark Oilers produced a pair of wins in their return to league action in the AMHL.
The Oilers doubled up the BP Athletics 4-2 on Dec. 2 led by an Isaac Benoit two-goal evening with Bailer and Tyson Laduke also scoring.
The Oil then dispatched the Calgary Northstars 6-3 on Dec. 3 behind a five-goal first period.
Buschlen notched the hat-trick, linemates Gibb Coady and Hunter Maximnuk found the back of the net along with forward Kale Clouston.
Okotoks is on the road this weekend to battle the Sherwood Park J. Ennis Kings and Knights of Columbus Pats on Dec. 9-10.
For more information go to ooaaoilerhockey.ca