After closing out 2010 on a high note, the Okotoks Bisons continued their winning ways in the first game of 2011.
The Bisons traveled west on Friday night for a clash with the Banff Academy Bears and made short work of the home team scoring twice in every period on the way to a 6-2 victory.
After Banff opened the scoring, Bisons captain Derek Schlamp scored his 10th of the season to even things up at one. Brett MacDonald gave Okotoks the lead just before the first intermission with his 11th of the year, which made it 2-1 for the visitors.
Banff responded in the second, but Bisons Lucas Mikkelsen and Aaron Elaschuk quelled the Bear uprising to make it 4-2 for Okotoks after two periods.
Jeremy Smith and Lane Wagner would put the finishing touches on the 6-2 victory with goals in the final frame.
While the end result was positive, it was obvious to Bisons general manager Jay McFarlane his team took awhile to adjust after the extended break.
“We were definitely a little bit rusty. You could tell the timing was off,” he said.
Continuing the evening’s theme of symmetry, Okotoks fired 17 shots at Banff goaltender Dan Plater in each period. They finished with 51 shots, 46 of which were stopped by the Bears netminder.
Tyler Hughes earned the victory in goal for the Bisons, making 29 saves on 31 shots. The win was Hughes’ eighth of the year, improving his record to 8-3 overall.
Banff recorded the only powerplay goal on the night, scoring once on seven chances. Okotoks was scoreless with their six chances.
The two points moved the Bisons to only three back of the South Division-leading Coaldale Copperheads in the Heritage Junior B Hockey League.
Okotoks (15-9) currently sits with 30 points while Coaldale (15-6-2-1) has 33.
The Bisons were fortunate to miss the blizzard that hit Okotoks over the weekend, McFarlane said.
“When we were leaving you could tell that things were changing so we got home just in time,” he said.
The Bisons were supposed to head home for a clash with the Strathmore Wheatland Kings on Sunday, Jan. 9. However, the inclement weather over the weekend forced the game to be cancelled. The game will be rescheduled to February.
The Bisons will be in action Sunday, Jan. 16 at 1:15 p.m. versus the Three Hills Thrashers at the Murray Arena in Okotoks.