- Category: Sports
A bleeding nose knocked the Strathmore High School girls Spartans out of the flow of the game.
The Holy Trinity Academy Knights dissolved the Spartans 65-53 at the Strathmore High School on Dec. 21.
Trailing 31-29 at half, the Spartans were hanging tough with the undefeated Knights.
Grade 11 guard Allie Davidson was having a nice game; she was putting the ball on the floor, driving to the hoop and getting her teammates involved while away from the ball.
Early in the third quarter, she took an elbow to the nose, causing it to bleed rapidly. The blunt force didn’t even allow her to get to her bench; instead, she sprinted to her locker room to clean up the mess.
With Davidson out, the Spartans (3-1) offence hit a snag and the Knights capitalized. Davidson returned with just over three minutes to play in the third quarter, but her team was trailing. They ended the quarter down 50-39.
“Once she got hurt, they went on a couple runs and we didn’t have enough in us to battle back,” said Spartans head coach Dion Galandy.
Davidson still managed to finish with 18 points, and hauled down six rebounds.
The Knights (4-0) are a long and strong team. They play solid on defence in the paint and are a headache to deal with on the defensive glass.
For Galandy’s undersized squad, the size disadvantage didn’t seem to bother them. As a jump-shooting team from the perimeter, their strategy didn’t waiver.
The three-pointer didn’t help the Spartans at all. Brianna Kennedy, normally a marksman from downtown, went 2-for-18 from deep and Kaylin Larson finished 2-for-13 from the land beyond.
“We are more of an outside-shooting team. That’s just who we are. If that’s our game, we got to live with it. I’m not going to tell them not to shoot,” said Galandy.
Most of Kennedy’s hoists came late, as she tried to shoot her team back into contention. Early, after a couple of misses, she would catch the ball at the three-point line and work her way into the paint, getting a layup or drawing a foul. She finished with 12 points.
Ffyona Gibson-Smith was effective, chipping in with six points on seven shots, and Tatum Wathen led the Spartans with seven boards.
Breaking for the holidays, the Spartans pick up Foothills Athletic Council action Jan. 11 when they head to Highwood High School to take on the Mustangs.
- Category: Sports
The holiday break might have come at the perfect time for the CFR Chemicals Bisons.
The Bisons fell in their final Alberta Midget Hockey League game of 2016 to the Calgary Northstars 5-4 Dec. 21 at the Max Bell Centre.
“We are a little fatigued right now,” said Bisons head coach Sandy Henry. “This is a tough, competitive league and teams come at us every game. Hopefully, a little family time this Christmas with some time off following the Mac’s (AAA Midget Hockey Tournament) and we come back recharged.”
The Herd came out strong in the first with a trio of goals, and depending who you ask, maybe should have had one more.
Up 1-0 following Tyler Petrie’s first of two on the evening 2:25 into the first, the Northstars (11-11-2) tied it on a goal that appeared to hit the post and bounce out. Shortly after, the Bisons felt like the found the back of the net, but it was waved off for a dislodged net.
“That was a little bit of a tough stretch,” said Henry. “They scored a goal that we thought didn’t count and then we had one that we thought was good, that got reversed. It was a little bit of a game-changer in bit of a tough stretch, but our guys battled through.”
Airdrie product Brandon Machado took over in the first period following the goal controversies.
He netted an unassisted marker with 8:06 remaining, and then another from linemates Tarun Fizer and captain Brett Trentham.
Machado is picking up his play as of late, the 16-year-old now scoring in back-to-back games.
“As with all young guys, he went through a bit of a learning curve at the start of the year,” said Henry. “He’s learning how and when to use his wheels — whether it’s skating in his line or turning on the jets to get out on a break. He’s got great skill and he’s going to be a good goal scorer for us.”
Machado sits sixth on the Bisons (18-3-3) with nine goals and 21 points. Last season as a member of the Edge School Elite 15s, he racked up 26 goals and 78 points in 35 games.
“I’ve just been sticking to my game plan. Playing with guys like Fizer and Brett (Trentham) has made it easy. We have gotten to know each other on and off the ice this year and we are getting the bounces now,” said Machado.
The Bisons were unable to sustain their first-period pressure through the remaining two stanzas despite Petire adding his tied-for-team-leading 12th goal from Joel Krahenbil.
“We just didn’t have a great night in our own end,” said Henry. “Everyone, the forwards, defensemen and goalie, didn’t play well. Maybe we weren’t aggressive enough and we got outplayed in the third period. We gotta learn from this and try and get our focus level back.”
Up 4-2 late in the second, the Northstars cut within one when Jarret Timmerman found the back of the net with 23 seconds left.
Then, in the third period, the Bisons outshot the Northstars 15-11, but the Northstars put two in the back of the net, including the winner from affiliated player Blake Stevenson.
The Bisons now move to 1-2-1 against Calgary-based teams this year and 1-3-1 in their past five games.
Hopefully the Mac’s tournament creates some enthusiasm and regenerates us coming back from the break.
The Bisons skated to a 3-3 tie with the Hungarian National U18 squad Dec. 23 at Pason Centennial Arena as an exhibition warm up for the tournament.
After rocking the puck off a pair of crossbars last weekend, Cole Clayton netted the lone goal in the opening period as the Bisons took a 1-0 lead on 12 shots. Tyler Strath and Tyson Scott picked up assists.
The Bisons picked up a pair of goals in the second stanza from Liam Belcourt and alternate captain Kaden Hanas. Registering assists was affiliated player Mark Zachary and Tarun Fizer.
The Hungarian team tied it at three while on the two-man advantage 5:10 into the third period.
The goaltending duty was split equally between Hunter Young and Ben Laidlaw. Laidlaw started, stopping 19 of 20 shots, and Young took over at the 10:17 mark of the second, allowing two goals on 14 shots.
The Herd resumes their AMHL season Jan. 8 (3:45 p.m.) when they take on the Calgary Royals at Stu Peppard Arena. Their next home game goes Jan. 13 when the Bisons welcome the Calgary Flames (15-7-1) to the Strathmore Family Centre.
The Bisons and Royals (14-5-4) skated to a 3-3 tie back on Dec. 9 and the Bisons disposed of the Flames 7-2 Oct. 30.
- Category: Sports
The Holy Cross Collegiate Hawks girls basketball team headed into the season on a high note.
The Hawks hammered the Notre Dame Collegiate Timberwolves 58-20 Dec. 21 in High River.
“Earlier in the week, we identified a few things we needed to work on, such as boxing out and our defensive rebounding, and the girls responded well to the mental reminders,” said Hawks head coach Brad Everett.
The defense turned into offence, as the Hawks poured in their most points of the season to date. Senior power forward Yulisa Solda dominated down low, leading the Hawks with 16 points and 16 rebounds.
“Yulisa played great, but it was more of a result of everyone finding their man and boxing out,” said Everett.
Normally guards Darcie Weir and Destiny Stevens are trying to orchestrate on offence, but against the Timberwolves, they played their best in their own end, forcing several steals, leading to fast breaks and points.
“They had good hands, got into passing lanes and disrupted plays in the first quarter. That really set the tone for our team going forward,” said Everett.
Following the gift giving and family time, the Hawks hit the hardwood again for another cross-town matchup with the Strathmore High School Spartans Jan. 11 (5:30 p.m.) at HCC.
The Spartans got the better of the Hawks back on Dec. 6, to the tune of 60-20 in the season opener.
- Category: Sports
It’s a Christmas tradition in this country: turkey-eating, present-opening, driveway-shoveling and hockey-watching.
The 39th installment of the Mac’s AAA Midget Hockey Tournament has produced a smorgasbord of NHL talent and crowned champions from six different countries. It is set to get underway Dec. 26 (10 a.m.) when the Arizona Bobcats host the Calgary Buffaloes at Max Bell Centre #1.
For the CFR Chemicals Bisons, they aim to be the sixth team to capture the elusive title for a second time. The Bisons won the Mac’s Cup back in 1998 when they iced the Swift Current Legionnaires, one year after losing out in the championship to the Saskatoon Contacts.
Last season, the Bisons failed to make it out of the round robin stage, going 1-2-1.
This year, expectations are reasonably higher for the Herd. The Bisons rolled through the Alberta Midget Hockey League (AMHL) like big shots to begin the season. They opened the season on a 19-game undefeated tear, but hit a miniscule road bump at the start of December. The Herd appears to be back on track following a 7-1 win Dec. 16 over the Knights of Columbus Pats.
“We are a lot more confident this year than we were last year,” said Bisons winger Kanden Hanas. “Our hot start might have given us a bigger target, but that only makes it more fun.”
But there’s mythical allure to this tournament. The names of Wendel Clark, Sidney Crosby, Mike Modano and Jarome Iginla ring around the arena while parents, fans and scouts file into the Max Bell Centre to catch a glimpse of some of the best midget hockey from North America and Europe.
“You kid yourself if you don’t get excited for the Mac’s. It’s a cool event; not just for the kids, but for everyone involved,” said Bisons assistant coach Paden Grant.
For Grant, it is his first time back at the Mac’s since he played for the Bisons during the 2003-2004 season.
The excitement became amplified Dec. 7 when the pools and schedules were released at the Westin in downtown Calgary. The Bisons are the host team in Pool 5 along with the Alaska Oilers, Greater Vancouver Canadians, Moose Jaw Generals and Red Deer Optimist Chiefs.
The leader after the round robin from each pool advances, along with three wildcard slots going to the next best records. Playoffs begin on New Year’s Eve with the championship running New Years Day (6 p.m.) at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
For captain Brett Trentham, this will mark his third Mac’s tourney. Playing for the Bisons as an affiliated player two years ago, he looks to be a calming presence in the room this year.
“Guys are going to be excited when they step out onto the ice in front of these crowds,” said Trentham. “We got to control that and try to not get too fired up, because that’s when mistakes start to happen.”
Bisons head coach Sandy Henry has been involved with the Mac’s for two decades. Whether it was coaching his two sons, scouting and with the Bisons, Henry has yet to drink from the Cup.
“We like our team, we think we have a good squad, and if we play to our potential, then we have a good opportunity to get to the final,” said Henry.
Henry and his staff plan to work this tournament just like any regular season game. They plan to work both goalies, roll all four lines and have called up affiliated players Tucker Zdunich (forward, Foothills Bisons midget AA), defenseman Connor Bertamini (Rockyview Raiders minor midget AAA) and forward Mark Zachary (AC Avalanche minor midget AAA).
The Bisons hit a speed bump this season when they faced three teams immediately below them in the AMHL standings. It was their first taste of stronger competition. Following a 3-0 loss to the second-place Calgary Buffaloes, Henry suggested that the only way to prepare for stiffer competition was to go out and play the stiffer competition.
This tournament will provide their best competition to date and should leave the tea leaves revealing what this team needs to continue working on as they prepare for their playoff drive.
The Mac’s is a little bit of a Christmas catch 22 – on one hand, it’s one of minor hockey’s highly coveted trophies; on the other hand, teams don’t want to peak or burn out in the Mac’s with so much of the regular season at stake.
Only the 1980 Notre Dame Hounds went on to capture the Mac’s Cup and the Telus Cup in the same year.
The Bisons staff is trying to find the happy medium in putting forth the necessary effort to capture the Mac’s without burning too much energy, hampering their chances at returning to the Telus Cup.
But the Telus Cup feels like eons from now. The Bisons battle the Hungarian National U18 team Dec. 23 in Okotoks at the Pason Centennial Arena as a precursor for the tournament in what should be a thrilling week of hockey.
The fun begins Boxing Day when the Bisons take on their AMHL foe, the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs at Father David Bauer Arena. Puck drop is slated for 12:45 p.m. The Chiefs won the Mac’s in its inagural year of 1978.
Schedules and standings will be updated throughout the tournament on the Mac’s tournament website.
- Category: Sports
The Strathmore High School (SHS) Spartans boys basketball team was denied a chance at the Queen Elizabeth Tournament title after dropping their opening game, but still made the most out of a weekend in Edmonton.
The John Maland High School Wildcats downed the Spartans 96-83 Dec. 15, in the Spartans lowest field goal percentage game of the tournament.
Jonathan Le May guided the Spartans with 28 points on 13-of-24 shots, to go with seven rebounds.
The Spartans shot a cringe-worthy 2-for-28 on three-pointers. Mackenzie Bain couldn’t get any of his 10 attempts to fall. Ryan Edwards and J.J. Pelly sunk their only threes.
Bain ended up with 17 points and four rebounds, while Kashtin Running Rabbit chipped in with 14 points (7-of-15) with a pair of blocks and eight rebounds.
The Spartans brushed back the Ecole J.H. Picard School 72-44 Dec. 16 in the consolation semifinal.
Senior centre Caleb Funk led the Spartans with 22 points on 10-of-18 shooting. Le May and Bain added 12 points each, while Josh Filipionek nailed a three to finish with seven points.
The Spartans saved their best shooting game (41 per cent) for the consolation final, when they dismantled the Oscar Romero High School Ravens 112-51 Dec. 17.
Bain scored a game-high 22 points with three three-pointers and Ryan Edwards contributed 18 points, three triples, three rebounds and a block. Caleb Wilchowy and Running Rabbit turned in double-double performances. Wilchowy scored 12 points on 7-of-13 shots and 10 rebounds. Running Rabbit finished with 12 points (6-of-8) and 11 boards.
The Spartans returned to Foothills Athletic Council action when they hosted the Notre Dame Collegiate Timberwolves (2-0) Dec. 20 and the Holy Trinity Academy Knights (3-0) Dec. 21. The Spartans (2-0) pick up after the break with a tournament in Claresholm running Jan. 6 and 7.
- Category: Sports
The Strathmore High School (SHS) Spartans girls basketball team squashed the competition as they went on to capture the Christmas Classic Tournament title at the SHS gym.
The Spartans shaved the Eagle Butte Lady Talons 80-73 in the final Dec. 17.
The final score didn’t truthfully describe how the Spartans controlled tape-to-tape.
Allie Davidson, a Grade 11 guard, was named finals most valuable player after she scored 17 points, with 12 of them coming in the second half. She led the Spartans in tournament scoring with 46 points
“She did everything very well today. She shot the ball well, drove well and handled the ball well. She is everything you can ask for in a guard,” said Spartans head coach Dion Galandy.
The Spartans started hot, hitting from all over, leading 26-13 after the first.
Brianna Kennedy was named the tournament MVP with her barrage from the three-point line. She scored 15 points in each game and connected on 10 three-pointers. She was feeling it in the finals, when she buried five triples despite getting whacked in the face at the start of the third quarter. She was hitting the deep ones too, some coming a few steps from beyond the line.
The Spartans stretched their lead to 20 in the third, but the Lady Talons wouldn’t go away that easily.
Lady Talons guard Kamille Svrta dialed up three straight triples from the top of the circle to bring her team within nine with less than a minute to go, but they simply ran out of time.
Kaylin Larson and Ffyona Gibson-Smith tied for the Spartans team high with 18 points.
The Spartans withheld a strong second half push from the Notre Dame Collegiate Timberwolves, as they slighted them 64-54 in the semis.
Larson led the way with 17 points, while Kennedy and Davidson each contributed 15 points.
In the opener, the Spartans blasted the Banff High School Bears 81-10 Dec. 16.
They held the Bears scoreless in the first and third quarter.
Senior forward Tatum Wathen scored a team-high 16 points, while Gibson-Smith and Davidson registered 14 points and Sydney Boyd chipped in with 12 points.
The Spartans (2-0) hosted the Timberwolves (0-2) Dec. 20 and the Holy Trinity Academy Knights (3-0) Dec. 21 at the SHS gym. Following the Knights game, the Spartans will break for the holidays and pick up action Jan. 11 when they host the Highwood High School Mustangs (1-1).
- Category: Sports
A strong second-half push in the final of their home tournament just wasn’t enough for the Holy Cross Collegiate (HCC) Hawks boys basketball team to prevail.
Trailing 33-17 at half, the Hawks outscored the Notre Dame Collegiate Timberwolves 39-26 in the second half, but still fell 59-56 Dec. 17 at HCC gym.
“It was a close game and a fun environment in the final. The fans were banging the bleachers on defense and trying to distract their free throw attempts,” said head coach Josh Jalbert. “Unfortunately, our three-point shooting got gradually worse as the tournament went on. We need to try and make our shots easier and get higher percentage looks.”
The Hawks only connected on 13 per cent (3 for 23) of their threes in the final. Senior guard Jericho Ricafort sunk a pair on nine attempts.
“When we started to get the ball down low, we were able to get a couple baskets. Then we started forcing some turnovers, got out in transition and scored eight points in two minutes in the fourth quarter,” said Jalbert.
Freshman guard Alex Nwoye scored a game-high 18 points and seven rebounds in the final. Luke Sproul went 6-of-13 for 13 points to go with eight boards and two steals.
In the semis, the Hawks laid waste to the W.G. Murdoch Trojans 73-66 Dec. 17, jump started by an early 24-6 lead after the first quarter.
Nwoye turned in his best game of the tournament, registering a double-double with 28 points (11-of-25) and 10 rebounds. He also picked up four dimes and seven steals.
Reid Jensen shot just under 50 per cent from the floor (8-of-19) to finish with 19 points. He nailed three trays on 12 attempts, hauled down six rebounds and supplied one assist.
Freshman forward Ralph Valencia was efficient, going 4-of-7 for 11 points, 2-for-5 from beyond the arc and drilled both his free throw attempts.
“Our guys are starting to gel now after a couple games together. We still need to work on our ball movement. We need to get away from playing hero ball. We need to give it up and have guys play well without the ball in their hands,” said Jalbert.
The Hawks disposed of the Didsbury High School Dragons 50-34 Dec. 16 in the opener.
Nwoye once again lead his squad with 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting, but was 0-for-4 from the land beyond. His nine boards were a game high as he also finished with four steals.
Landon Osachuk, Ricafort and Valencia were the only Hawks to sink a three, as the team went 3-for-15 from deep.
Jensen finished with nine points and nine steals, while Valencia chipped in with seven points, two boards and two steals.
The Hawks were more effective the closer they moved to the hoop throughout the tourney. They shot 18.67 per cent from three, but improved to a respectable 40.67 per cent when they moved inside the arc.
The Hawks (2-2) travel to High River Dec. 21 to take on the Timberwolves, who sit 2-0 in a pair of Foothills Athletic Council regular season games. Then, they will break for the holidays and resume action with a tournament in Drumheller, running Jan. 13-14.
- Category: Sports
The Holy Trinity Academy Knights used their length and size advantage to dominate a shorthanded Holy Cross Collegiate Hawks girls basketball team to the tune of an 81-31 win Dec. 14 in Okotoks.
“We were down to eight players and greatly outsized, but our girls didn’t back down and played hard until the end,” said Hawks head coach Brad Everett.
For the Hawks, they were standing among the trees down low, as the Knights out-rebounded them 42-22 and blocked 10 Hawks shot attempts.
Whenever the Hawks tried double or triple-teaming the Knights (3-0) low-post plays, their guards were able to roam freely, creating any shot they wanted.
The Hawks (0-3) best quarter came in the fourth, when they recorded 12 points, highlighted by a Hope Given three-pointer from the top of the three-point line.
Banking the head-on shot home, she turned around joyfully, holding up three fingers towards her bench.
“She had a few hiccups early, but that three really gave her confidence and it rubbed off onto others,” said Everett.
Given closed out the quarter shooting 4-of-6 and 1-for-2 from the charity stripe, finishing with 11 points.
Darcie Weir’s shot wasn’t falling, but she led the Hawks with four assists, and forced five steals.
“I thought we were rushing our plays tonight, we need to slow things down a half step; not everything needs to be a fast-break attempt,” said Everett. “We are going to take the open shots when they present themselves and hopefully they go in.”
Freshman guard Brooke Miller led the Hawks with five rebounds and Taryn Tanton chipped in with four boards.
The Hawks hosted the Highwood High School Mustangs (1-1) Dec. 19 and battled the Notre Dame Collegiate Timberwolves (0-2) Dec. 21 in High River. They return from the holiday break to host the Strathmore High School Spartans (2-0) Jan. 18.
- Category: Sports
Brooker Pretty Youngman’s third hat trick of the season and second in five games helped to lift the Strathmore Wheatland Kings over the Medicine Hat Cubs.
The 7-5 icing of the Cubs Dec. 18 at the Kinplex Arena ended a brief three-game slide, sending the Kings into the holiday break on a high note.
Riding extra high was Pretty Youngman, whose hatty also elevated him into rarified Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) air, as he surpassed the 100-point plateau.
“It felt good to finally accomplish that. It’s something I have been working hard to finally get it. I have played with guys on the Kings and in Okotoks who got 100 points. It was something I always wanted to do, especially in my final year,” said Pretty Youngman.
The Siksika Nation product leads the Kings (10-14-3) with 18 goals and 36 points during his most productive season.
“I’m just trying to do my best and help this team out as much as I can,” said Pretty Youngman.
His 100th point came on a goal at the 18:46 mark of the third period one night earlier at home during a 5-3 loss to the Cochrane Generals (23-4-1).
Grabbing the puck, Pretty Youngman has it sitting on the shelf beside his first ever HJHL goal.
Another milestone was reached during the Kings final game before the holiday break. Rookie netminder Indiana Kelly backstopped his team with 40 saves in his second start to pick up his first career win.
“He faced a ton of shots from the six-minute mark of the second period and on. They pressured us pretty hard, but he held his own,” said assistant coach Braden Desmet.
“I’m very happy for him. He hasn’t missed a single practice all year and he works really hard,” said Pretty Youngman.
Kelly cruised through the opening frame, and was only required to make six saves as his team jumped out to an early 3-0 lead on goals from Zachary Meadows, Pretty Youngman and a short-handed snipe from alternate captain Brenden Moore.
Following a scoreless second frame, the two teams went bonkers, combining for nine goals in the third, as the Cubs (5-18-5) were taking advantage of the lazy play from the Kings.
“I don’t know if we were tired, or guys were thinking about the break, or what. But we took our foot off the gas and any team in this league can come back against you if you let them,” said Desmet.
The Cubs sit fifth, eight points behind the Kings in the southern division.
Trailing 5-1 in the third, the Cubs scored four times in the final 8:31, but were kept at bay by a pair of George Montour goals.
Montour, who turned 20 on Dec. 10, exploded with five points in his best game of the season. It was the first time Montour registered a multi-point performance this season.
“He does a lot of things well for this team and is starting to get rewarded for his work lately,” said Desmet, who saw his Kings outshoot the opposition (47-45) for only the eighth time in 27 games.
While the Kings head into the break with a win, they still haven’t found an answer for the monkey on their back that is the Cochrane Generals.
The Generals did what the Generals do, as they clipped the Kings 5-3 Dec. 17 at the Strathmore Family Centre.
Typically a lopsided affair, the Kings battled, but couldn’t close the gap on the Generals.
Cochrane led 2-0 after two, when Matt Thomson drove down the right win, unleashing his heavy snap shot from the faceoff circle on the power play, cutting the Generals lead in half.
Pretty Youngman scored a pair in the final five minutes, but the Kings simply ran out of time, as Hoover made 40 saves in net.
“I was relatively happy with our performance even though the outcome wasn’t what we wanted,” said Desmet.
The Kings have played the reigning Southern division champions slightly better this year. They sit 0-3 with a minus-8 goal differential, marginally different from going 0-4 last year with a minus-13 differential.
“The standings are kind of locked up at the minute, so we need to come back from the break and worry about our own game plan as we shape up for a playoff drive,” said Desmet.
That marks the end of Kings hockey in 2016. The team resumes action Jan. 6 when they take on the Generals for the final time this regular season at the Spray Lakes Family Sports Centre. Their first home action in the New Year goes Jan. 7 (8 p.m.), when they welcome the Cubs back to the Strathmore Family Centre.
- Category: Sports
The CFR Chemicals Bisons responded to their first dose of adversity by erupting for seven goals in what turned out to be a bit of a laugher Dec. 16 at the Strathmore Family Centre.
After seeing their 19-game unbeaten streak snapped, the Bisons endured a three-game winless streak before dumping the last place Knights of Columbus Pats 7-1.
The Pats (6-15-2) leading scorer, Seattle Thunderbirds prospect Graeme Bryks, banked one from behind the net off Bisons netminder Hunter Young to jump to an early 1-0 lead.
The Bisons, who were shut out in their last outing for the first time this season, took the lid off their offense with seven-straight goals, sparked by their defense.
Cole Clayton leads the Bisons defensive unit with seven points and kick started the rout with a pair of Duncan Keith-ian passes.
From behind his own net, he set Jackson Salt up with a pass that would have been illegal if the two-line pass rule was still enforced. Salt sprinted in on Pats netminder Braedan Stephen, unleashing a quick snap shot from in tight.
“I was feeling pretty good coming into tonight,” said Clayton. “We knew this was a beatable team, so I tried a couple new things and they worked out.”
While he might not have picked up an assist on the winner, Clayton certainly put the play in motion with another great outlet pass to Tarun Fizer, who set up Brandon Machado for a breakaway. Machado, one of the Bisons fastest skaters, was off, shooting and burying his seventh goal.
“His panic threshold is the highest I’ve ever seen. He sees the ice better than anyone and makes passes that make you say, ‘holy cow, how did he see that?’” said Bisons assistant coach Mike Langen.
Clayton nearly added a pair of snipes, but pounded point blasts off the crossbar twice.
The Herd carried a 3-1 lead into the first break when another defenseman, Liam Belcourt, joined the rush 24 seconds after Machado’s marker, and stuffed his second on the season past Stephen.
The Bisons (18-2-3) were scoring goals in bunches in what was their final home game before the holiday break.
In the second period, while on the power play, a point shot from Tyler Petrie was knocked down in front; Blake Wells’ rebound attempt saw the puck squirt over to Joel Krahenbil, who tapped in a backhander on the doorstep for his fifth goal.
Off the ensuing faceoff, Payton Krebs, who was amidst a mini-slump – only one point in his previous four games – came roaring back down the ice 52 seconds later with Salt and Cayde Augustine, chipping in his 11th marker.
Krebs was reunited with Salt on the top line as they welcomed affiliated player Jaevon Bushlen to form the all-Okotoks line. Buschlen seemed to fit in nicely, having played with Krebs in peewee and bantam.
“He has a great hockey sense. He might not be the biggest or fastest, but he knows where to go to be successful, and that’s only going to help him out going forward,” said Krebs about Buschlen, who has six goals and 15 points in 17 games for the Rockyview Raiders minor midget AAA.
Zach Huber made his debut for the Okotoks Oilers of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, clearing a spot for Buschlen.
With Landon Melzer and Kaden Hanas resting lower-body injuries, Luke Jensen (Airdrie Lightning midget AA) and Ethan Strang (AC Avalanche minor midget AAA) made their debuts for the Herd.
Following the Krebs goal, the Pats called a timeout.
Whatever coach Brennan Menard drew up didn’t set in, as nine seconds later, it was Fizer off the draw, taking the puck deep and driving home his 11th of the season as he moves up to seventh in league scoring with 11 goals and 26 points.
Wells added his team-leading 12th snipe from Krahenbil with 1:38 remaining in the third, as the Bisons collectively exhaled a feeling of relief to be back in the win column.
For Young, it was an important start in net. Giving up the behind-the-net goal early, and almost kicking in another rebound, he looked solid between the pipes for his first win since Nov. 25, where he recorded 15 saves in a 2-1 win over the MLAC Beverly Optimists on home ice. It was his first win in three starts as he continues to work his way back from missing seven games with an upper body injury. His 14 saves earned him his sixth win.
“It was tough for him to miss a big chunk of games and practices,” said Langen. “When he finally came back, he picked up a couple losses, so it was nice for him to get the win. We are going to need him down the stretch.”
With the win, the Bisons have clinched their 15th-straight playoff berth.
“It’s nice to know that we clinched, but our goal now is to earn that first-round bye and avoid the best-of-three series in the opening round,” said Langen. “It will also provide us with a week off, which would be nice.”
The Bisons final regular season game before the holiday break went Dec. 21 at the Max Bell Centre when they took on the Calgary Northstars (10-11-2).
In preparation for the Mac’s AAA Midget Hockey Tournament, the Bisons took on the Hungarian National U18 squad Dec. 23 at Pason Centennial Arena in Okotoks in an exhibition match.
The Bisons return to AMHL action Jan. 13 (8 p.m.), when they host the Calgary Flames (14-7-1) at the Strathmore Family Centre.
- Category: Sports
The Wheatland Warriors can coast into the holiday season on a high note, having won three of their past four South Central Alberta Hockey League games.
On Dec. 18, Trey Gillis – the bantam Warriors long-haired spark plug – took a five-minute boarding major at the horn of the first period, banishing him from any return.
The Foothills Bisons (2-19-0) were given a lengthy power play to start the second period, and it turned into nearly two minutes down five-on-three when Kegan Law picked up a tripping minor.
The Warriors only allowed one goal, gathering momentum leading to the 5-2 win at the Strathmore Family Centre.
It wasn’t just the penalty kill that was clicking; the man advantage also factored in the outcome.
Mitch Tessemaker buried a pair of power play markers. The first came 9:01 into the opening frame when Adam Kirkpatrick spotted Tessemaker from the corner, just below the right faceoff circle on a brilliant feed. Tessemaker wasted no time depositing the puck into the open net. Cole Walker picked up his eighth assist and 10th point on the play.
Later in the second, coming off another big penalty kill, Tessemaker cranked a knuckle puck from the blue line, tumbling top corner for the eventual winner. They were his first two snipes of the year.
The Warriors (8-11-2) stretched the lead to four with goals by Jarred Schrock and Nolan Bailey, with a pair of assists to Kage Yellowfly and Kirkpatrick.
The Bisons were attempting to make a game of it with several strong shifts in the third, cycling down low and throwing anything and everything on net.
Corey Ross turned away 38 shots, as he picked up his second win.
Tessemaker put a bow on the game as he assisted on Yellowfly’s goal with 29 seconds in the third.
The Warriors resume play in 2017 when they travel to the Olds and District Sports Complex Jan. 7 to take on the Olds Grizzlys (11-5-1). Their first home game of the New Year goes Jan. 15 when they host the Grizzlys at the Strathmore Family Centre.
Chiefs winning streak ends
The Wheatland Chiefs experienced the most hectic part of their schedule leading up to the Christmas break, as they played five games in one week, which saw their 12-game winning streak come to an end.
First, the Chiefs dumped the Okotoks Oilers Green 6-4 on Dec. 13. They then had to turn around and take on CRAA Blue (7-3-1) the following evening at the Max Bell Centre #1, where they were bested 3-2.
Defenseman Scott Desserre blocked a shot with his hand, breaking a finger, which now requires surgery. There is no timetable for his return.
The Chiefs (19-2-1) hopped back in the win column with a 3-0 blanking of the Oilers Green (7-10-3) Dec. 17 at Hussar Arena. Sitting first and second in league scoring, Isaac Benoit and Chayse Hnatowich added first-period tallies along with Kale Clouston.
Wacy Sandum, Robert Butterwick, Ryan McHarg and Benoit added assists.
Ty Tarvyd turned away 20 shots for his fourth shutout.
The Chiefs then manhandled the 2-19-2 Foothills Bisons 8-2 Dec. 18 at the Strathmore Family Centre.
Benoit scored four straight goals, Hnattowich picked up three helpers, Zachary Suntjens finished with a goal and an assist and Lucas Muenchrath supplied a pair of assists, while Riley Stovka made 20 saves for his eighth win.
The Chiefs return Jan. 7 when they take on the Taber Golden Suns (7-9-5). at the Taber Community Centre.
- Category: Sports
Santa Claus’s job just got a whole lot easier.
The Strathmore Wheatland Kings organized a toy drive for the Ronald McDonald House Dec. 10 when they hosted the Okotoks Bisons at the Strathmore Family Centre.
Matt Thomson and Emily Wegner welcomed their daughter into the world last spring, but she was born with minor complications. Thomson and Wegner spent five weeks at the Ronald McDonald House while their daughter received treatment at Calgary Children’s Hospital.
Feeling deeply appreciative of all the efforts and help they received at the Ronald McDonald House, Thomson brought up the idea of a toy drive to the Kings game day staff.
Fans were encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy to the game in exchange for free entry. The goal was to fill up the box of a Dodge truck.
The results were overwhelming.
“That went a whole lot better than expected. We ended up with way more than we ever hoped for,” said Thomson.
The truck sat west of the entrance and was overflowing with toys. Inside, there were a few stations that were piled a couple feet high with everything from stuffed animals, games and puzzles to electronics.
The Kings also collected $1,364 in cash and gift cards.
Before the game, Bisons forward Robbie McLean presented Thomson with a cheque for the charity. Thomson and Wegner later addressed the crowd while holding their daughter, thanking everyone for their support that evening and thanking the Ronald McDonald House for the support last spring.
Wegner, a figure skating coach in Nanton, skated around the ice during the anthem, carrying the flag.
The following day, Thomson and his family, Wegner, teammates Ryan Grasdahl and Brenden Moore delivered the toys to the Ronald McDonald House.
Due to the sheer volume of the toys collected, they needed an enclosed trailer to stuff everything inside.
Once they got to the Ronald McDonald House, they began unloading the toys and brought them to the house’s great room where the Christmas tree is displayed.
“We were blown away by the generosity of Strathmore and the people from the surrounding area. They nearly filled the entire room,” said Sarah Heibein, the community events coordinator for Ronald McDonald House. Heibein was in attendance for the heart-warming game in Strathmore.
The gifts were not handed out immediately to the children; the Christmas elves there will now take inventory, wrap each gift and check the wish lists in their database and hand out the gifts to the proper children on Christmas.
“It felt really cool to do this at Christmas time. It’s crazy how this went from just an idea to something so huge,” said Wegner.
- Category: Sports
After much anticipation, the Holy Cross Collegiate Hawks opened their season by tossing up a bagel in their first quarter of Foothills Athletic Conference boys’ basketball action.
The Strathmore High School Spartans handed the Hawks a 78-40 drubbing Dec. 6 at the Strathmore High School gym.
“Our players looked nervous out there. We got a couple open looks, but rushed our shots,” said Hawks head coach Josh Jalbert.
The Hawks barely managed to get the ball through the Spartans full-court press in the first quarter, trailing 31-0.
The second quarter was much better as the Hawks dialed up a trio of three pointers and a baseline turnaround jumper from senior Luke Sproul.
“You know, when you look at it, nobody really wants to be involved in a game like that,” said Spartans head coach Matt Laslo. “They have some really talented players over there, but they are just younger, that’s all.”
Spartans senior power forward Jonathan Le May connected on all five shots from the floor in the first half and hauled down six rebounds.
“He is one of the returning guys on this team and we are going to lean on him this year,” said Laslo.
Shooting guard Mackenzie Bain went five-for-11 with three triples and five assists.
“It was important to get everyone playing time and to get them involved, scoring points as we move along into the season. It was a good team win,” said point guard Isaiah Simwamu, who finished with four points, three assists and three steals on two-of-seven shooting.
The Hawks picked up their slack in the remaining quarters, only slighted 47-40 the remaining way.
Jalbert received strong play from his second unit, as they combined for 23 points.
Sproul finished with eight points, four boards and one block, while freshman centre Cordel Steadman channeled his inner Shaquille O’Neal and blocked eight Spartans, including three blocks on one possession in the third. He also scored six points and ripped down five boards.
Perhaps much of the Hawks shooting woes — 19-for-59 and 2-for-16 from the free throw line — can be related to rust.
Hawks took on the Oilfields School Drillers Dec. 7 at home and clipped them 73-60.
“It was a quicker game, lots of transition points, but when we were able to slow it down and play in our half court sets on offence and defence, it looked much better,” said Jalbert.
The Hawks hosted the Strathcona-Tweedsmuir Spartans Dec. 12 and traveled to Holy Trinity Academy in Okotoks Dec. 14. The Hawks host their tournament Dec. 16 and 17. Their first game is against the Didsbury High School Dragons and tips off at 3 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Spartans travel to Strathcona-Tweedsmuir Dec. 14 in preparation for the Queen Elizabeth Tournament in Edmonton Dec. 15-17.
- Category: Sports
The staff break room transformed into Santa’s workshop as members of the CFR Chemicals Bisons helped kids wrap their Christmas presents Dec. 11 at the Calgary Co-op in Strathmore.
This marked the 16th annual Christmas Shop with the Bisons, a holiday tradition that the hockey team started as just another way to stay connected with its community.
“This is a huge part of who we are. Part of being an elite hockey player is having the humility to give back to the community,” said Bisons general manager Wayne Hansen.
Despite a jam-packed holiday schedule, the Bisons woke up early on game day to help spread some Christmas cheer.
The Bisons took 21 kids from Brentwood Elementary, Westmount Elementary and Scared Heart Academy, with less than favourable situations for an hour of shopping for their families.
“We want to make sure people can have what they need for Christmas,” said Hansen.
The kids paced through the store, picking out dinners, desserts and toys for their loved ones. Co-op donated $1,000 and if there was any left over, the Bisons picked up the rest of the tab.
Even the coaching staff got involved, taking kids around the store and up to the wrapping centre.
“Working with the community is what we are all about, it is the pillar of our foundation. Events like this make a difference in the community,” said Terry Singer, who is the centre manager and has been with Co-op for 34 years.
After the shopping was done, the kids took their Bison player upstairs and began – “creatively” – wrapping their gifts. While blessed with great hands on the ice, the skills weren’t transferrable with wrapping paper, bows and tape.
“I struggled with it for sure, but it was fun. At least I wasn’t the worst,” said Bisons forward Tyler Petrie. “I think Belcourt was having some troubles.”
“I was probably the worst one [wrapping]. I normally use gift bags instead and take the easy way out,” admitted Liam Belcourt.
The Bisons then carried the wrapped gifts out to the vehicles and gave the family ticket vouchers to come to any Bison game they wish.
“It was heartwarming to see the smile on the kids’ faces and for them to be happy as they picked out Monster Jams (toy trucks), chocolate and candy,” said Petrie.
- Category: Sports
The Okotoks Bisons blasted the doors off the Strathmore Wheatland Kings this weekend in Heritage Junior Hockey League action.
It began with the Bisons crashing the holiday party that was Matt Thomson’s toy drive for the Ronald McDonald House, edging the Kings 4-1 Dec. 10 at the Strathmore Family Centre.
Fans who brought in new, unwrapped toys for the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) received free entry to the game. Thomson thought the toy drive would be an excellent way to say thanks to the RMH for helping him out during the first five weeks following the birth of his daughter last spring.
The Bisons (19-8-0) were kind enough to make a cash donation to the drive, but weren’t nearly as charitable on the ice.
“We came out flat footed despite all the emotion surrounding this game. We would have a couple good shifts, but then take a penalty and lose all that we worked for,” said Kings head coach Shadoe Stoodley.
Dominating out of the gate, the Bisons lead 2-0 after the opening frame, outshooting the Kings 19-5. They were having their way through the neutral zone and deep into the Kings’ zone.
Making matters worse, was both Bisons goals came shorthanded, including one while the Kings were on a 5-on-3 advantage. They are the league’s deadliest team shorthanded, scoring 13 goals.
“Giving up those goals kind of sucked the energy out of our team,” said defenseman Hayden Vanderploeg.
Trailing 3-0 after two periods, alternate captain Cole Busslinger netted his eighth goal on a broken play in front of the Bisons net. With the puck at his feet, he spun, kicked the puck up to his stick and unloaded a clapper from point blank. Bradley Tingey and Kody Hammond picked up assists.
The Bisons went 2-for-7 on the man advantage as Brady Hoover was under siege once again; recording 44 saves on 48 shots.
“We remembered the lead we blew in this building earlier in the year. We looked at this game as redemption for us,” said Bisons head coach Mike Hannigan.
The Kings have showed a surprising ability to bounce back and turn the page following a difficult loss this season. Last weekend, after getting piped 10-2 by the Coaldale Copperheads (18-7-1), they turned around and bested the Copperheads 7-4.
Earlier in November, the Kings (9-13-3) lost to the fifth-placed Stettler Lightning (11-12-1) 3-2 at home, only to follow it up with 6-3 win on the road against the top-seeded Mountainview Colts (20-3-2).
There was no magical turn around this time.
“We need to keep the same game plan and not change up anything,” said Hannigan following the Bisons 4-1 win.
The Bisons kept the beat going with a 9-1 cakewalk Dec. 11 at Murray Arena.
“We actually came out of the gate strong. We responded well to the night before, we had them pinned in their end for the first bit; we hit three posts in the first five minutes,” said assistant coach Braden Desmet. “We couldn’t capitalize and then they went to the power play and the floodgates opened. We couldn’t regain a flow to our game after that.”
Hoover got the call between the pipes once again; he’s no stranger to playing in back-to-backs. He was lifted after allowing four goals for Pierre Wiederhold, who didn’t fare much better, allowing three goals on 13 shots.
Tempers were on the brink of boiling over Dec. 10: Brenden Moore sought out a few fights but couldn’t find a willing partner. He wouldn’t be denied in Okotoks, as he squared off with Kyle Becker in the first period.
“Guys were frustrated. We weren’t getting the bounces we needed and a little carried over from the previous game,” said Desmet.
Wiederhold was run over in the second period and jumped Kyle Dunville. Hoover was forced to return to the net and yielded two more goals.
“We need to come out and work harder than that if we want to get two points,” said Stoodley.
The good news for the Kings is that they don’t have to see the Bisons anymore in the regular season. They went 1-3 against the Herd with a minus-13 goal differential.
The bad news is that the Kings host the Cochrane Generals Dec. 17 (8 p.m.) at the Strathmore Family Centre.
The Kings have yet to solve the Generals in two years. This season, the Generals (22-4-1) remain at the top of the south division, 24 points ahead of the Kings.
The Kings then head to the Kinplex Arena for their second meeting with the Medicine Hat Cubs (4-17-5). The Kings are 1-0 against the Cubs this season.
- Category: Sports
Calgary Buffaloes netminder Taylor Gauthier’s performance had all the makings of an Oceans 11 film. Robbing the CFR Chemicals Bisons, he was devastating, smooth, timely and walked away with a smug smile on his face.
Gauthier was miraculous, turning away all 35 shots to pick up his second shutout of the season as the Buffs skated to the 3-0 victory over the Bisons during Alberta Midget Hockey League action Dec. 11 at the Strathmore Family Centre. It was the first time the Bisons were blanked this year.
The Buffs (15-2-4) now sit second, three points back of the Bisons (17-2-3), for top spot in the Chrysler division. The Buffs are stingy and own the top-ranked offence, with 99 goals for, while allowing the fewest (34 goals against).
Despite being outshot 35-31, the Bisons definitely out-chanced the Buffs.
Time and time again, Gauthier bailed out the Buffs with mind-rattling saves.
“We knew tonight was going to be a hard game. [Gauthier] proved to everyone why he has been successful in the past. He is a battler, never quits and is a very smart goalie,” said Buffs coach Claude Vilgrain.
In the first period, Blake Wells, who is tied for the team lead in goals (11), was sent in on a breakaway, only to be turned away.
Four minutes into the second frame, Buffs forward Jaren Turnquist took a four-minute penalty for a hit to the head. Trailing 2-0 at the time, combined with the long change, it looked like an ample opportunity for the Bisons to get back in the game.
The Bisons cycled, looked for an opening and directed a plethora of shots on net, but nothing. Landon Melzer came close, but rang one off the crossbar.
Later in the second, Bisons leader in points, Payton Krebs, was sent in on another breakaway. Mixing it up, he tried a little right-to-left move to open up the five-hole, but was stuffed with a butterfly save. Gauthier was even in proper position to stop the rebound opportunity.
With 11 minutes and change remaining in the second frame, Krebs was sent on a 2-on-1 rush with Zach Huber. Floating a saucer pass over the sprawled out defender, Huber snapped one on net, but was blindly robbed by Gauthier’s glove.
“It was a little frustrating. Those are the types of plays that have been working for us all year. We ran into a hot goalie tonight, but we know [those shots] will go in for us again,” said Huber.
Jackson Salt took a hard pass at centre ice, arching the puck on one bounce towards Gauthier. The puck knuckled — banking hard left — it was quickly swallowed up by Gauthier’s mitt once again.
Even when Gauthier was down and out, he still managed to kick out his pads to shutdown a cross-crease shot attempt.
“That guy had awfully long legs,” joked Bisons head coach Sandy Henry.
The Bisons are experiencing a little bit of a funk in the second half of the season.
Through their first 17 games, they averaged 4.52 goals per game. Coming into the Buffs tilt, in the four games in the second half, they were down to 3.75.
Smaller sample size, stiffer competition and a few minor injuries forcing new line combinations, all probably correlate with the slight downtick in production. But it’s nothing the Bisons are too concerned about.
“We are trying some different stuff, and we will continue to do so. We won’t know what our best combination is until we try everything,” said Henry.
Henry was reassuring after the game that he believes there is no need to worry about the offence, even though he has juggled the top line over the past few games.
“It took a couple shifts for us to get going, but I thought we generated enough chances to win tonight,” said Henry. “These guys are thoroughbreds: they make a hard run and expect results because they have been successful in the past. Tonight just didn’t go our way.”
The Buff’s game marked the third-straight time the Bisons trailed after the opening frame. Granted, these are first-world problems, but in games against the top teams in the league, the Bisons are experiencing jailhouse blitzes from puck drop.
Two nights earlier, the Calgary Royals (13-4-4) used aggressive skating and team speed to apply pressure on the typically sure-handed Bisons defence.
“We can prepare to play these teams and talk about it all we want, but until you’re in it, you don’t really have a feel for what it’s like,” said Henry. “I thought we did better against the Buffs than we did against the Royals.”
Trailing 3-2 halfway through the third period, Bisons captain Brett Trentham drove to the net, snapping one past Royals netminder and co-AMHL player of the moth Samuel Burford. Joel Krahenbil and Salt also found the back of the net as the Bisons skated to their third tie of the season. Tyler Petrie, Tarun Fizer, Krebs, Wells, Tyler Strath and Huber picked up assists. Ben Laidlaw stopped 26 of 29 shots.
“We can’t dread on this weekend, we just have to keep going. There’s still lots of season left,” said Strath.
Two games remain before the Bisons break for the holidays and the Mac’s AAA Midget Tournament. First, the Bisons host the Knights of Columbus Pats (6-13-2) Dec. 16 (8 p.m.) at the Strathmore Family Centre. The Bisons Dec. 21 when they travel to the Max Bell Centre #1 to take on the Calgary Northstars at 7:30 p.m.
The Bisons clipped the Pats 4-3 back on Nov. 5 and have yet to face the Northstars (10-9-2), who sit sixth with 22 points.