Old time hockey, offence from the defence and the biggest win of the season.
The Okotoks Oilers (7-2) packed a month worth of action into one night, knocking off the previously undefeated Sherwood Park Crusaders 3-2 Saturday night at Pason Centennial Arena after a wild second period that saw 170 penalty minutes handed down.
“We were just super competitive for this game and wanted to get them back for Showcase. This game meant a lot,” said Oilers captain Ayden Roche-Setoguchi. “We knew we had the talent to beat those guys.
“I think we can beat anyone, we’re one of the top teams in the league and can stick around with anyone.”
The Crusaders levied Okotoks one of its two losses on the season at the AJHL Showcase one week ago in an offensive slugfest.
Okotoks showed from the outset it was going to be a different animal on home ice.
The Oilers dominated the opening frame, yet went into the intermission down one goal on a powerplay marker from highly-touted blueliner Michael Benning.
The middle stanza saw a little good, bad and ugly play out with numerous post-whistle skirmishes breaking out and bad blood boiling over in the form of 17 misconducts levied by officials.
“We didn’t have all the calls go our way and that kind of got under our skin,” said Oilers rookie defenceman Tucker McRae. “We just said let it go and go play our game and I think that gave us some momentum.
“This team is really coming together, really getting close and I think that shows when guys are willing to stick up for each other like that.”
The Oilers made good on a powerplay to even the score on a blast from the point off the stick of blueliner Noah Kim.
Ayden Roche-Setoguchi continued the theme with another goal from the back-end, this one on a 5-on-3 advantage to give Okotoks its first lead.
“We got forwards to the net and the D got pucks through onto the net,” Roche-Setoguchi said. “I think that’s what led to a lot of our success.”
McRae made it three goals from defencemen in the second period alone, teeing up a shot from the blueline and firing into the back of the net for the Calgarian’s first AJHL goal in what held up as the game winning tally.
“The puck came back to me in the air, I settled it down and just stepped into it and heard it hit the back of the net,” McRae said. “I was pretty excited, that was a good energy boost for the team in that part of the game and was important come the end of the game.”
Particularly with the dangerous Crusaders offence owning another period to crawl back from the two-goal deficit.
Carter Savoie, the AJHL’s player of the month for September, got the Crusaders back within one with his 10th goal of the season three minutes into the final frame.
Sherwood Park threatened late with a powerplay opportunity in the final stretch with Arjun Atwal’s one timer off the post as close as the visitors would get on the night.
Mitigating the damage from the Savoie, Atwal and William Zapernick line, one of if not the top trio in the provincial loop, was absolutely crucial for the Green and Gold.
“We wanted to shut down Atwal, I think he’s the best player in this league,” said Oilers head coach Tyler Deis. “He’s extremely dangerous and the engine for that line so we just wanted to make sure we made it a hard night for him.
“We played them last week and felt we played good enough to win that game and that one line scored four goals. It’s just one of those ones where we wanted to shut down that line.”
The Crusaders were held to just 17 shots on goal with Ashton Abel making 15 saves to pick up his 7th win of the season.
“I think that’s a really good sign,” McRae said. “It’s good that we’re getting in lanes and blocking shots and limiting their chances because I think we’re a defence team and I think that’s going to be a big part of our success.”
Okotoks opened the homestand on Friday night with a 6-0 shutout over the Grande Prairie Storm. Abel made 15 saves for the shutout with Seth Bernard-Docker pacing the offence with a two-goal effort from the back-end. Kim, Eric Parker, Blake Jacques and Marc Pasemko also tickled the twine.
The Oilers take their show on the road next week with stops in Drumheller and Camrose on Oct. 11-12, respectively. Okotoks’ next home date is Oct. 15 versus Lloydminster.
For more information go to okotoksoilers.ca