Last October, the Foothills CFR Chemicals Bisons once scored 11 goals against the SSAC Boston Pizza Athletics.
On Jan. 15, they only mustered eight shots against the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs in a 4-2 loss at the Strathmore Family Centre.
The Chiefs and Bisons skated to a 2-2 tie earlier in the season, and recently, the Bisons stuffed the Chiefs 5-2 in their opening game of the Mac’s AAA Midget Hockey Tournament.
The Chiefs (16-4-7) might have started the season slowly, but have been gaining steam behind the Bisons in the standings, growing confidence and making adjustments along the way.
“They did a real good job plugging up their end of the ice,” said Bisons head coach Sandy Henry. “They out worked us and we didn’t win any battles. We weren’t forceful and didn’t get enough pucks to the net.”
The Bisons (20-4-3) previous low shot total was 22 on Nov. 6 during a 2-2 tie with the Fort Saskatchewan Boston Pizza Rangers.
“We knew that coming in, this was a big game. We just got caught up trying to make too many fancy plans,” said Bisons centre Brandon Machado. “We weren’t prepared, we played undisciplined and we took a good team for granted.”
Justin Travis never had to make more than three saves in any period as the Chiefs spent quality time in the Bisons end on the man advantage. They finished three-for-seven on the power play.
The Bisons actually led 1-0 after the first period.
“We did a good job collapsing, but you don’t have to give those guys too much space before they become dangerous again,” said Chiefs head coach Doug Quinn.
The next time Peyton Krebs sets up someone without using a saucer pass, might be the first time.
Earlier on a powerplay, Krebs fanned on a one-timer opportunity. Immediately grabbing the puck off the boards, he spun and floated a saucer pass over to Zach Huber. The puck normally always goes in when these two hook up, but Huber fired high.
Minutes later, Krebs won a battle in the corner against Ethan Schlag. Turning quickly, he spotted his other line mate Jackson Salt on the other side of the net and flipped over a saucer pass. Salt hit it right on the button, putting the Bisons up 1-0.
The line of Brett Trentham, Tarun Fizer and Brandon Machado have arguably been the Bisons’ strongest unit in the ladder half of the season. Developing almost a telekinetic sense of communication, they always know where each other are on the ice.
Trentham cycled the puck down to Fizer, who made a couple moves to get free behind the Chiefs’ goal line, as Machado darted toward the side of the net, as Fizer hit him in stride, putting the Herd up 2-1 at the 4:12 mark of the second period. For Machado, it was his third point on the weekend, giving him 11 goals and 25 points this season.
“We are just trying to keep it simple out there. I play with great linemates who make it easy. My motto this year has been; team success brings personal success,” said Machado.
The Chiefs used great puck movement on a pair of power plays in the second to tie the game at two, before running away with it in the third.
Ben Laidlaw was between the pipes when these two teams squared off in the Mac’s. He was in net this time around; making 22 saves as he picked up his second loss of the season.
A scary moment occurred midway through the third when Fizer took a pass leaving his zone. With the puck on his stick, he took a couple of strides before trying to turn up ice, when he got plastered by a Chiefs forward in the neutral zone.
Lying on the ice for a few moments, he had to be helped off the ice by trainer Rebecca Thompson.
“I thought it was a clean hit. It was unfortunate that he had his head down. We got to find a way to get and stay healthy,” said Henry.
Fizer, who leads the team with 31 points, joins other key forwards Blake Wells (23 points) and Boaz Bassen (11 points) as players out indefinitely with upper-body injuries.
Wells has been out since the Mac’s and Bassen left during a 4-1 win Jan. 13 against the Calgary Flames at the Strathmore Family Centre.
Huber drilled his 12th of the season and the winner at the 3:15 mark of the second from Cole Clayton and Krebs. Krebs added a goal to finish with two points, as Tyson Scott supplied one goal, Machado finished with a goal and an assist, while Tyson Terretta and Liam Belcourt chipped in with a pair of assists each. Hunter Young made 23 saves for his eighth win.
For Belcourt, it was his first game back with the Bisons after returning from the Tri-City Americans (WHL) road trip across Saskatchewan. The Americans went 5-0 on the eastern swing. Even though Belcourt was a healthy scratch, he was still able to pick up a few things by just being around the team on the bus and in the morning skates.
“They’re all a good bunch of guys and it was a great experience,” said Belcourt, who was selected by the Americans in the fourth round of the 2015 bantam draft. “It was great to see how hard they work on the ice, not taking anything for granted and to see how professional they were off the ice.”
Two notables on the Americans roster are defensemen Dakota Krebs (Peyton Krebs’ brother), and Michael Rasmussen (C) and Juuso Valimaki (D). Rasmussen and Valimaki cracked the top-10 of North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting mid-season draft rankings that was released Jan. 18.
Next for the Bisons, they will host the Calgary Northstars Jan. 22 (4:45 p.m.) on a night celebrating the billet families at the Strathmore Family Centre. It will be a rematch nearly a month later, when the Northstars (12-12-2) clipped the Bisons 5-4 in Calgary.