The CFR Chemicals Bisons ambushed an Alaska Oilers team that was set to play their second game merely 24 hours after having the wheels of their jet touchdown in Calgary.
A dominating performance, the Bisons outshot the Oilers 51-20 but only skated away with a 4-1 victory in their Mac’s AAA Midget Hockey Tournament feature game Dec. 27 at the Max Bell Centre #1.
“I watched the Moose Jaw game yesterday and I thought they came out pretty hard given their adversity. Now that they have a little rest in them, we knew we had to come at them hard and not fall asleep on them,” said Bisons head coach Sandy Henry. “Sure enough we gave up the first one early.”
Hunter Young got the call between the pipes for the Bisons and didn’t get off to a dream start. The Oilers (0-2) came down the ice 1:50 into the opening frame and scored on a perfectly placed wrister from Joshua Linn, going top corner blocker side. Young finished with 19 saves.
The lead didn’t last long, as Tyson Scott stuffed in a rebound goal on a Boaz Bassen shot 14 seconds later. Zach Huber registered the other assist.
“You want to have a good responding shift after giving up a goal and they did. It was huge. We got any momentum back from them with that goal,” said Henry.
Bisons coaching staff has a goal of trying to get 15 shots each period. A tough task in any game; let alone in a highly skilled international tournament. The Oilers help the Bisons accomplish that feat with 11 penalties including three-straight trips to the box in the second period with the game in the balance.
On one of those powerplays in the second period, Bassen sent a great opportunity wide. The play carried on with the puck working its way to alternate captain Kaden Hanas at the point. Unleashing a bullet wide, the puck took a Joe Louis Arena bounce off the end boards, coming right to Bassen in front of the net. The play happened too quickly for the defence to react, as Bassen calmly slid the winner 5-hole. Scott picked up the other assist, as Bassen would be named player of the game.
“This is a great experience, I’ve never played in front of this many fans. To win the MVP was extra special,” said Bassen.
“Good to see him bury a goal and get the player of the game. It’s another notch for his belt — playing in the Mac’s and getting player of the game. I thought he played really well last game. He’s on an upward trend, playing consistently better each game,” said Bisons assistant coach Mike Langen.
With 8:58 remaining in the second, the Bisons red-hot top line continued to create chances in the offensive end.
Centre Peyton Krebs made a couple nice moves on the right half wall, eluding a couple defenders, finding winger Jackson Salt. Taking the puck behind the net, he shoveled a backhand pass out to Huber in the slot. Huber pumped in the one-timer for his second marker of the tourney.
“We click together. Once we get chances and get going, we’re pretty much unstoppable. We use our speed, move the puck (well) and we know where each other is since we played together in bantam,” said Salt.
In the tight hallways of Father David Bauer Arena following the Bisons tourney-opening win, Henry expressed displeasure about how his team took their foot off the gas in the third period. In a tournament where goal differential could mean a playoff birth or an early trip home, every goal counts.
“After a couple goals early, we sort of turned into 20 individuals. We got a little sloppy and messy; we needed to move the puck a lot better. That type of play is not going to beat good teams,” said Henry.
The message was definitely received.
Hanas was applying the forecheck in the offensive zone when he fell and hauled down an Oilers defender. Penalty or not, he was off for two minutes.
On the Oilers only man advantage of the third period, Brandon Machado stole the puck and entered the zone with captain Brett Trentham. Finding Trentham in the slot, the captain didn’t miss. The short-handed marker was the final nail in the coffin for the Oilers.
The 4-1 final really wasn’t reflective of the Bisons performance. The line of Joel Krahenbil, Blake Wells and Tyler Petrie have been buzzing both games, creating a plethora of scoring chances, but haven’t received the justified amount of points for their efforts.
“They’re big, strong guys. If they get the puck on the back walls, behind the goal line, they can make things happen. We need them to go in, play big and heavy, cycle the puck and making the teams work,” said Henry.
Hanas was coming off a lower-body injury he sustained in a hit a few games before the tournament. Showing no ill effects, he blocked a pair of shots in the opener and four more against the Oilers. Playing with no regard for his own body, Hanas was diving in front of shots late in the third period with his Bisons up 4-1.
“I’m gonna lay my body out any chance I get to help my team get the win,” said Hanas, who’s cousin, Kale Clague is a defensemen on the 2016-17 Canadian National Junior Team.
“That’s Kaden’s gravy, playing that rough, tough style and getting underneath the other teams’ skin,” said Langen.
Other Pool 5 action from Day 2 of the tourney saw the Greater Vancouver Canadians (1-0) clip the Moose Jaw Generals 6-2. The Generals now sit 1-1. Other division leading teams are the Belarus National U17 team (2-0), Notre Dame Hounds (2-1), Calgary Royals (2-0) and the Prince Albert Mintos (2-0).
The Bisons (2-0) were off Dec. 28, as they got to enjoy a little family time before picking up action against the Greater Vancouver Giants Dec. 29 (2:30 p.m.) at Father David Bauer Arena. The Bisons wrap up round robin play Dec. 30 against the Moose Jaw Generals at Max Bell Centre #1. Puck drop is set for 11:45 a.m.