What a difference a week makes in the Heritage Junior Hockey League’s roller-coaster Southern Division.
After seeing their division lead stolen last weekend the Okotoks Jr. B Bisons (23-10-2) responded with massive road victories over High River and Coaldale to find themselves in the driver’s seat with top spot in the South in their grasp.
“We control our destiny,” said Bisons head coach Chris Beston. “We’ve just got to do the work against Med Hat and hope everything pans out. We’re taking it game-by-game, worry about the playoffs when they come and what position we’re in.
“But we’ve got to take care of Medicine Hat before anything.”
Because the Bisons own a considerable edge in the tie-breaker, goal differential, over the Coaldale Copperheads they are virtually guaranteed of taking the top seed with a victory in the season finale on Feb. 11 versus the sixth-seed Medicine Hat Cubs.
It would be Okotoks’ first time finishing tops in its division since 2013-14 when the team last captured the HJHL championship.
On paper Okotoks has a favourable match-up in the Cubs whom they’ve easily defeated in all three meetings this season by a combined 24-9 margin.
The Cubs have been better of late with recent wins over High River and Strathmore to show for it.
The season finale for all the marbles is a 1:15 p.m. puck drop on Feb. 11 at the Murray Arena.
The top two teams in each HJHL division receive a bye through the first-round with the third and sixth seed as well as the fourth and fifth seed squaring of in a best-of-three series.
The Bisons put themselves in a position to clinch after a two-game weekend to remember.
“We were very impressed, the team played exactly how we wanted them to – we couldn’t ask for anything more,” Beston said. “They battled and competed the way we wanted.
“We worked on our d-zone quite a bit, we were defensive first and the main thing is we stayed out of the box. The guys were very disciplined at both ends with the penalties and the defensive zone.”
Okotoks bucked its recent trend in the Battle of the Foothills to score a 4-2 result in High River on Friday.
Tyler Bordt and Josh McCulloch staked the visitors to a 2-0 lead through the first 40 minutes followed by third period insurance tallies from alternate captain Kyle Harrison and the pugnacious Kyle Dunville.
The Flyers scored late through Jakob Jefferies and captain Josh Younker in a losing cause.
The Bisons made it two wins in as many days in a commanding 4-1 victory over the Copperheads Saturday in the Snake Pit – one of the toughest road buildings to get a result.
“We stuck to our game plan, didn’t deviate,” Beston said. “We only had four penalties that game and two were coincidental and the one goal they got was shorthanded.”
Coaldale’s Levi Anderson opened the scoring in the middle frame answered by Dunville at even strength.
The Bisons took over in the final frame with three unanswered markers through Robbie McLean, Harrison and fleet-footed freshman forward Jharin Bantugan.
“We had chances in the first and the second,” Beston said. “In the third we eventually wore them down and things started going in for us.”
Devin Reagan made 27 saves for his second win of the weekend and 18th of the season.
Bordt, who joined the team following the holiday break from the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Columbia Valley Rockies, continues to swing a hot stick with 17 points in just nine games with the club.
For more information go to okotoksbisons.com