So much for playoff rust.
The Okotoks Jr. B Bisons showed no signs of post-season cobwebs against a team with a ton of momentum off a first-round series victory in a textbook defensive effort to knock off the High River Flyers 2-0 in Game 1 of the HJHL South semifinal playoff series Friday night in front of a packed house at the Murray Arena.
"Playing a rival, you're always going to get up for that game playing High River," said Bisons forward Ryan Bedard. "I think we've been ready for playoffs all year, we've been looking forward to it since the season started and we went on that run.
"Ever since then we've been ready and we've been mentally preparing for this."
Game 1 marked the playoff debut for top-seed Okotoks who had a bye through the first-round while the Flyers were two days removed from completing a five-game series victory over the Coaldale Copperheads.
The Bisons carried most of the play in the opening frame, but the Flyers had grade-A opportunities on a trio of breakaways only to be turned aside by Devin Reagan, who stopped all 36 shots he faced for his second career playoff shutout.
"We held pressure for most of that first period and kind of outplayed them," said Bisons head coach Chris Beston. "And Devin made the saves that we needed him to make and we capitalized on everything after that."
Bedard opened the scoring shortly into the middle frame, driving wide to the net and getting the puck past Flyers netminder Davyn LaRocke, a shotstopper on a terrific run of form down the stretch and early in the playoffs.
"It started with a good play by Bedsy right off the bat," Beston added. "Going hard to the net and getting a goal first shift and that got our confidence up. Their goalie made some good saves in the first period that he probably shouldn't have and he's a good goalie so we needed to get one early."
Riker Franczak doubled the lead in short order as Okotoks tallied twice in the middle frame on 17 shots on goal.
"You've just got to try to pepper him with shots," Bedard said. "Don't try to make it too fancy, one of them is bound to go in eventually. He's not going to stop all of them."
The third period saw Okotoks have most of the opportunities, highlighted by a penalty shot from HJHL top scorer Tyson Scott which ringed off the post with 8:12 left in regulation. The Flyers were kept largely at bay by a strong defensive effort by Okotoks to close out the contest.
"Going into playoffs our mentality has to be defensive first," Bedard said. "Defence wins championships, that's what people say so we've got to focus on that and the offence will come."
The best-of-seven series continues with Game 2 Sunday night at the Murray Arena with puck-drop at 6:45 p.m.
With passionate fan bases on both sides and a healthy amount of dislike the intensity should only pick up in the first playoff series between the Southern Division foes since the 2014 campaign.
"That is going to be huge for us," Beston said. "Our discipline and not getting too high or too low, it's going to be managing our emotions all series and making sure we stay in check."
Game 1: High River at Okotoks. Feb. 21, 8 p.m. Murray Arena. 2-0 win Okotoks
Game 2: High River at Okotoks. Feb. 23, 6:45 p.m. at Murray Arena.
Game 3: Okotoks at High River. Feb. 24, 8:45 p.m. at Bob Snodgrass Recplex
Game 4: Okotoks at High River. Feb. 28, 8 p.m. at Bob Snodgrass Recplex
Game 5: High River at Okotoks. March 1, 8 p.m. at Murray Arena
Game 6: Okotoks at High River. March 2, 8:45 p.m. at Bob Snodgrass Recplex
Game 7: High River at Okotoks. March 4, 8 p.m. at Murray Arena