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Bandits edge Oilers on AJHL opening weekend

Hockey: Brooks outlasts Okotoks in first two of six straight exhibition matchups

The Okotoks Oilers will have to wait until week two of exhibition to pick up their first win.

In a battle of Alberta Junior Hockey League South Division heavyweights, the Brooks Bandits took the first two of six straight matchups between the foes on the opening weekend of the provincial loop's exhibition season bookended by a 4-3 overtime triumph Saturday night at Okotoks' Pason Centennial Arena.

"For the first couple games we looked maybe a bit tentative - but really came on in the third in both games," said Oilers centre Jack Works. "We've just got to play a full 60 and play aggressive and we also gave up a few powerplay goals so we've got to tighten that up.

"I'm not worried about anything really, we've just got to tighten up. I'm really excited about this team."

In the Oct. 10 tilt, special teams told the tale in the opening frame with Bandits blueliner Corson Ceulemans finding twine on a seeing-eye point shot on the powerplay midway through the first period answered in the final minute of the stanza on a shorthanded breakaway tally from Okotokian Gibb Coady.

"Starting off this way — you can tell there's already a rivalry," Coady said. "It's there and I think it's going to get more and more (intense) every weekend."

The visitors stole back momentum in the second period on a breakaway goal off the stick of centre Sean Chisholm followed by a quick strike in-front from Jack Seymour.

Okotoks' top sniper cued the comeback in the third period.

Fresh off his franchise record 43-goal, 92-point season, Works got back to work with two third period markers to force overtime. First, the University of Denver commit potted a rebound with Brayden Morrison and Zane Kindrachuk picking up the assists. Works then evened the score on a 2-on-0 break with Jaevon Buschlen and Coltan Wilkie earning the assists.

TJ Hughes closed the contest in overtime, picking up his first goal of exhibition to give the Bandits their second win in as many nights.

"It felt like a playoff game, it was back-and-forth," Works said. "We hate those guys more than anyone so it was pretty easy to get up for it.

"It was unreal, the intensity."

Jack McNaughton, from the WHL's Calgary Hitmen, mined the last line of defence for Okotoks on a loan basis with the Oilers' netminders Parker Sawka and Brady Parker unavailable to play.

Brooks got the early jump on the exhibition series by taking the opener 5-2 on Friday night on home ice behind two-goal efforts from Chris Pappas and Thomas Cusson.

Defenceman Eric Parker scored both of the Okotoks goals, Morrison, Coady, Louis Jamernik and Carson Dyck each chipped in with an assist while sophomore netminder Sawka stopped 32 of 37 shots.

"We didn't get what we wanted, but it's still great to be back," Works said. "We're just going to keep getting better."

The exhibition series continues on Oct. 16-17 and Oct. 23-24 with the Oct. 16 and Oct. 23 dates in Okotoks.

After seeing last year's post-season run get cut off before it could start due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the return to the ice was pretty special for the players.

"It was so nice to be back on the ice and actually playing a real game, get that competitiveness back, be able to compete against people other than our teammates," said Coady, who made the most of his off-season with on and off ice training. "As soon as I could get back on the ice I was on the ice as much as I could because I was really missing it and just mentally trying to stay in it, that was tough. I would say getting to watch the Stanley Cup playoffs helped with that a bit, staying in the game mode.

"And as soon as we got back here, Aug. 31 we were ready to go right from the start and it's been pretty cool."

For more information go to okotoksoilers.ca




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Remy Greer

About the Author: Remy Greer

Remy Greer is the assistant editor and sports reporter for Okotokstoday.ca and the Western Wheel newspaper. For story tips contact rgreer@okotoks.greatwest.ca
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