Bisons and Snakes renew playoff rivalry

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Hockey: South final matches Okotoks and Coaldale team rallying in face of tragedy

Traditional foes clash for the fifth straight playoff this time with a spot in the league final on the line.

The Okotoks Jr. B Bisons and Coaldale Copperheads open the Heritage Junior Hockey League best-of-seven South final on March 7.

“I anticipate it’s going to be a good series, all year long there hasn’t been a lot to choose from either team,” said Bisons general manager Brent Trevors. “Both teams are similar in that we both roll four lines, rely on their depth.

“One thing with Coaldale, they don’t stray from what they do. They stay the course.”

Coaldale enters the series with heavy hearts.

Copperheads forward Morgan Simpson passed away due to a car accident last week. The team rallied in the face of the unimaginable tragedy with a pair of wins over High River to erase a 2-1 deficit and take the series in five games.

“The boys pretty much want to play like Morgan would play,” said Copperheads head coach Scott Trotter. “Morgan was a character player, worked hard, enjoyed hockey, he wanted to win and that’s what they’re trying to carry on. After what happened the boys rallied together and I’m super proud of what they did.”

The Bisons can empathize with their counterparts.

Okotoks lost former captain Zak Johns to a motorcycle accident in the summer of 2016.

“That’s a tragedy,” Trevors said. “A lot of the kids off our team went through the same thing. I’ve seen it lots in my life, it does tend to galvanize a team, they play with a purpose.”

For their part, the Bisons displayed desperate hockey in their second round sweep over a very talented Cochrane Generals team.

“For us to be successful we’ve got to stay out of the box, we’ve got to roll our four lines, be smart and stay the course,” Trevors said. “Very much what Coaldale does. You’ve got a lot of respect for those teams and those are generally the ones that find a way to win in the end.

“I thought the kids did a really good job in that last series.”

Okotoks and Coaldale split the season series, each winning once at home and away. The teams finished with identical 24-10-2 records with the Copperheads taking the top spot in a tiebreaker.

“We’re just going to continue where we left off and work hard, give 110 per cent every shift and the cards will fall where they’re going to fall,” Trotter said. “We’ve had really good battles with them throughout the season and we’re not expecting anything less going into a seven-game series.

“I think the majority of these games will come down to one goal.”

The Copperheads have the edge in recent meetings. Coaldale has eliminated Okotoks from the last three playoffs. Okotoks hasn’t leaped past the Coaldale hurdle since sweeping the Snakes en route to its most recent championship in 2014.

“It should be good, there are a few guys here who are due for a W,” Trevors said. “I don’t worry about what Coaldale does, if our team goes and does what we expect we will be fine.

“I really like our team this year. I like it from the back out, I think we’ve been building to this point, I think we’re built for the playoffs. I guess, time will tell.”

In the North Division the top two seeds, Red Deer and Airdrie do battle for the right to advance to the league championship and clinch one of two spots in the Jr. B provincials.

For more information go to okotoksbisons.com

South Final schedule

Game 1. Okotoks at Coaldale. March 7, 8:15 p.mGame 2. Coaldale at Okotoks. March 9, 8 p.m.Game 3. Okotoks at Coaldale. March 10, 8:30 p.m.Game 4. Coaldale at Okotoks. March 12, 8 p.m.Game 5. Okotoks at Coaldale. March 14, 8:15 p.m.Game 6. Coaldale at Okotoks. March 16, 8 p.m.Game 7. Okotoks at Coaldale. March 17, 8:30 p.m.

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