Last series, the Foothills CFR Chemicals Bisons penalty killers snuffed out the Calgary Buffaloes power play all 15 times.
In Game 1 of the Alberta Midget Hockey League finals, the Leduc Chrysler Oil Kings capitalized twice on a five-minute power play, to clip the Bisons 3-1 March 19 at the Strathmore Family Centre.
Rarely does defenseman Cayde Augustine join the rush. When Tyson Scott and Blake Wells broke out, he saw an opening to contribute offensively. Scott hit him with a touch pass in the slot, but Easton Hesse was there to turn him away.
At the end of the play, Augustine had his feet swept out from underneath him as his 6-foot-1 frame went barreling into the goaltender. He was dealt a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct. The game misconduct meant that he would be suspended for Game 2 in Leduc.
“We watched the video during the intermission and [Cayde] kind of put himself in a tough spot. He tried to go to the backhand instead of just shooting it, which got him a little tangled up and made it difficult for him to stop,” said Bisons assistant coach Paden Grant.
The Oil Kings power play was operating at a 14.3 per cent clip this postseason before Augustine’s major.
“We used a time out to go over things and make a couple changes, knowing it was a five minute power play and not just a two minute minor,” said Oil Kings head coach Taylor Harnett. “That power play was a big reason why we are walking out of here with a win today.”
Tied 1-1 in the second, Tyler Schendel hit the post from the right faceoff dot. The puck worked its way around to him again, and picked the corner over Ben Laidlaw’s right shoulder with 1:38 remaining on the major penalty.
“We made a couple mental mistakes on that penalty kill that we weren’t making in the Buffs series. We seemed a little bit mentally tired; the mind was going but the hands couldn’t catch up,” said Grant.
Nearly one minute later, Tyson Terretta’s clearing attempt appeared to hit Peyton Krebs in the back, keeping the puck in the zone as Oil Kings affiliated player Dillon Hamaliuk pounced on it, finding the back of the net with 21 seconds left on the major and at the 19:13 mark of the second period.
The Bisons hadn’t seen the Oil Kings since October, when they swept the season series following a 5-1 and 3-2 victory.
Since the Mac’s AAA Midget Hockey Tournament break, the Oil Kings transformed into a different team.
“Their effort level was really high tonight. They have a disciplined forecheck and plugged us up the middle of the ice. We are going to have to go back to the video tapes and see how we can adjust to their style of game,” said Bisons head coach Sandy Henry.
They wrapped up the season winning four of their last five, before knocking out the division’s top two seeds in the playoffs and are currently riding a five-game winning streak.
“We are a different team from the one the Bisons played in October. It was a matter of having our players buy into the philosophy. It took a while for us to create our identity and realize the potential we have in this locker room,” said Harnett.
As anticipated, the Bisons got off to a slow start, following their epic four-game series with the Calgary Buffaloes that featured two heart-stopping double-overtime games. The Family Centre was just as packed, but wasn’t able to reproduce the same energy that powered the Bisons to their Game 4 win.
The Oil Kings opened the game by coming down the ice and popping one past Laidlaw. Jack Sander sent the initial shot on net. Laidlaw tried corralling the rebound with three Oil Kings jamming away at the loose puck, before Jaden York wedged it home at the 4:57 mark of the first period.
The Bisons got on board when Airdrie product Brandon Machado intercepted a blue line pass from Cole Lewis to Colby Wolter on the power play. Machado was off to the races, beating Hesse’s low blocker for his fourth of the postseason at the 6:40 mark of the second stanza.
The line of Machado, captain Brett Trentham and Tarun Fizer were the most threatening of any Bison line in Game 1.
Playing in his third game back, it appeared the chemistry and game speed returned to Fizer, who was one of the Bisons’ top point producers before going down to an injury in January.
“I definitely felt better tonight than I did my first game back. I wasn’t sucking wind after each shift tonight,” said Fizer. “I felt like we got a lot of good chances out there tonight, we just need to put a couple in and we should be fine against this team.”
The Bisons finished 20 points higher in the standings than the Oil Kings this season.
The Herd was buzzing in the third period, but couldn’t get one to fall, as Hesse was forced to make over half his saves in the third period (13).
Game 2 of the finals went March 22 at Sobeys Arena in Leduc. Game 3 returns to the Strathmore Family Centre March 24 at 8 p.m. If necessary, Game 4 would take place March 26 in Leduc, with Game 5 returning to Strathmore March 27 (8 p.m.).