Photo – Robert Murray:
(1) Fort McMurray Oil Barons vs. (2) Whitecourt Wolverines
Series tied 1-1
Before the AJHL North Division final was about to get underway, many thought this series would go the distance.
That’s still entirely possible after the first 120 minutes of hockey, but as the series shifts to Whitecourt for the next two games of the series, neither team can head there thinking they have the advantage after what transpired in the first 120 minutes of the series.
The best possible finals matchup in the Viterra AJHL North Division has produced a victory for both sides, with the MOB winning the opening game 3-2 Friday before the Wolverines responded with a 5-3 win Saturday at the Casman Centre.
For the MOB, they took charge in the early stages of game one. The line of Brett Edwards, Jackson McKinstry and Hayden Ursulak picked up where they left off in the Bonnyville series and were finally rewarded on the score sheet for their contributions. Edwards scored the series-opening goal and Ursulak scored a period later to help the MOB to victory.
Adding in a beautiful goal from Will Conley was more than enough for Eric Szudor, who made 33 saves for the win.
It’s not the end of the world for the MOB, but they have to look at game two as a missed opportunity. Had it not been for a short-handed goal from Justin Young early in the third, the MOB might have found the strength to press for another overtime contest, though the deficits proved to be too much.
Though they didn’t come away with the win in game one, the Wolverines didn’t have to beat themselves up over it as they found their legs and confidence as the game wore on. Saturday, it came to fruition perfectly as they potted five goals against Eric Szudor, evening up the series.
Young had a pair of goals and the Wolverines got to Szudor in the first period. Liam Motley chipped in a pair of assists to get him on the score sheet in the series.
Where the MOB failed to utilize their special teams, Whitecourt held the advantage through the first two games. So far, they’ve capitalized on three of their seven man-advantage opportunities compared to just one of nine for the MOB.
The tipping point of the series could come on the man-advantage in the end. The Wolverines will need to convert on those rare chances if the MOB continue playing well five-on-five as they have during the last two regular season games at the Scott Safety Centre.
On the MOB’s end, they’ll obviously need to find some way to stop the Wolverines from converting on the power play or getting those chances to begin with.
As much as both teams showed their consistencies and inconsistencies throughout the first tow games, the fun part is that this series is just beginning.
It’s going to take a lot for either team to land the knockout punch and if it takes five more games, fans will appreciate what already has the feeling of another classic North Division Final.
By Robert Murray @NovaCanuck
(4) Okotoks Oilers @ (1) Brooks Bandits
Series tied 1-1
Both Okotoks and Brooks entered the weekend with perfect post-season records, and both will leave the weekend with a blemish on their record after splitting the first two games of the South Final.
Game #1: Pretty much from start to finish, this game was dominated by the Bandits as they opened the series with a 9-2 victory.
Cale Makar (assists to Parker Foo and Josh McKechney @3:16) wrist shot handcuffed Oilers starting goaltender Riley Morris to open the scoring, it was Makar's third of the playoffs. Later in the first, it was Tyrell Mappin (assists to Nick Prkusic and Kord Pankewicz @17:24) would notch his fourth of the postseason to double the Brooks lead to 2-0. Morris would face a bulk of the shots in the opening frame as the Bandits held a 14-4 shot edge.
The Oilers would cut the lead in half early in the second as Jordie Lawson (assist to Carson Beers @3:07) would get his first of the series on the power play. Parker Foo (assists to Joe O'Connor and Conner Jean @8:31) would restore the two goal lead for the Bandits with his fifth of the postseason. That would open the floodgates for goals as just under two minutes later Nathan Plessis (assists to Vincenzo Renda and Nic Hamre @10:12) would snap his first of the series to give Brooks a 4-1 lead. The Bandits would then go to work on the power play, Nick Prkusic (assists to Dennis Cesana and Oliver Chau @11:56) would find the back of the net for his third of the playoffs. Okotoks would answer nearly four minutes later as Tanner Laderoute (assist to Jacob Bernard-Docker @15:46) would beat Bandits (starting) goaltender Mitchel Benson for his fourth of the postseason. The Bandits would get that goal back on the power play over a minute later as Parker Foo (assists to Josh McKechney and Joe O'Connor @16:38) would get his second of the period. Shots favored the Oilers 14-13 in the second but were 27-18 Brooks through 40 minutes.
The Bandits would continue to roll in the third as Josh McKechney (assists to Oliver Chau and Dennis Cesana @4:11) would collect his 14th point of the playoffs. That would spell the end of the night for Morris who would give up seven goals on 28 shots. On the power play, Nic Hamre (assists to Tyrell Mappin and Charlie Marchand @13:10) notched his third of the postseason to give Brooks an 8-2 lead. The Bandits would finish off the scoring with a shorthanded goal late in the third when Nathan Plessis (assist to Josh McKechney @19:45) would get his second of the night to make the final 9-2. Matthew Armitage would make seven saves in relief. Shots favored the Bandits 10-7 in the third and 37-25 in the hockey game.
Game #2: Saturday night would need a little overtime before the Oilers would end up on top 3-2.
Both goaltenders would be perfect in the opening period as Mitchel Benson would make six stops while Riley Morris was slightly busier making 11 stops in the first period.
Midway through the second Joe O'Connor (assists to Vincenzo Renda and Nathan Plessis @8:52) second of the postseason would give Brooks a 1-0 lead. Nearly five minutes later Colby Livingstone (assists to Austin Wong and Kyle Gordon @13:15) would get his first of the series to even the game at one. Shots were even in the second 10-10 but were 21-16 Bandits after two.
Early in the third Brooks would retake the lead as Nick Prkusic (assists to Tyrell Mappin and Oliver Chau @3:54) would score his fourth of the playoffs. That score would almost stand up for the remainder of the game but a late power play for the Oilers would be successful as Trey Degraaf (assist to Jordan Davies @18:29) would get his team leading sixth of the postseason to tie the game at two. Shots favored Okotoks 14-10 in the third but were 31-30 for the Bandits.
Just over four minutes into overtime Jordan Xavier (assists to Nolan Thompson and Jordan Davies @17:25) tipped in his sixth of the playoffs to even the series at a game apiece. Shots favored the Oilers 5-3 in overtime and 35-34 in the hockey game.
Games three and four will be in Okotoks and are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
Story by Chris Colwell @Cjcolwell