Getting a read on the 2017-’18 Okotoks Bisons has been a nearly impossible task.
Whenever I’m ready to declare them the runaway favourites they hit a bump in the road. Whenever you start to write them off, they come back with their trademark dominance.
Two steps forward, one step back has been the trend for most of the season.
However, when you look at the regular season standings, it’s hard to argue with what they did.
Okotoks finished tied for first in the HJHL’s Southern Division, losing out on the head-to-head tiebreaker with Coaldale and settling for second. Both clubs have a bye through the condensed best-of-three first round series.
As the team prepares for post-season liftoff, there is definitely reasons for optimism.
Starting on the last line of defence, first-year netminder Devin Reagan finished tops in the league in wins, 18, and save percentage, .924.
The defence is much improved with the additions of Taylor McNeill, Jaret Bordt and freshman Joel Deeprose.
Though the herd was void of a top-10 scorer in the Heritage, they produced the most goals in the division with 179 and own the best goal differential at +64.
It’s a balanced attack led by leading point-getter Josh McCulloch, top goal scorer Kyle Harrison, hometown power forward Robbie McLean, slick playmaker Tyler Bordt, feisty winger Nicolas Murrell and puck-moving defenceman Brennan Fuoco.
Importantly, the Bisons own an abundance of Brian Burke’s favourite alchemy of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence. The kind of moxy that often predicts playoff success.
Facing the prospects of a second-round tilt with the surging Cochrane Generals (barring a monumental first-round upset to Medicine Hat) they will need all of those characteristics to get through.
Finding that elusive consistency when it matters most wouldn’t hurt either.