The trailers for the Alberta Midget Hockey League semifinals promised for speed, physicality and talented puck movement. Game 1 lived up to those expectations and then some.
The Calgary Buffaloes jumped on the Foothills CFR Chemicals Bisons early, but the Bisons hung in there, giving the division winners all they could handle, but in the end, fell 2-1 Friday night at the Cardel Rec South Arena.
Five minutes into the first, the puck came around to Cayde Augustine at the Buffs blue line. He quickly spun a shot on net, missing far-side, as the puck rimmed around the boards, sending Josh Dobberthien and Sam Anderson the other way on an odd-man rush. Anderson waited, flipped a pass to his winger, registering the first goal of the series.
“We came out super jacked up and almost overplayed the game. In the second period, we settled into our game, but then in the third period, we tried to force stuff and started over playing again,” said Bisons assistant coach Mike Langen.
The Buffs struck again on another odd-man rush in the first with Anderson being the beneficiary this time form Zach Anderson and Jaren Turnquist.
“(Josh) is one of those guys that has bought in and does the little things right. He’s a man out there; he plays big and when he moves his feet, he’s one our top players,” said Buffaloes head coach Claude Vilgrain.
Last series, the Bisons kept hitting the snooze button through the first period, before finally waking up and getting after it in the remaining 40 minutes.
While they trailed 2-0 after the first period this series, the effort and intensity level was much different.
“I felt like we were with them all period, they capitalized on a few opportunities, I felt like they got lucky with a couple of goals and we didn’t. After the first, we were right with them every step of the way,” said Bisons defenceman Cole Clayton
In a series featuring the league’s two top teams, there is going to be chunks of the game where the other team has trouble retrieving the puck. That only seems natural with the two top offences and defences going at it.
For the Bisons, the Buffs took away time and space in the first period and for half of the third.
In the second stanza, the Bisons made their push.
On the power play, Brandon Machado made a couple nice moves to gain the zone down the right wing. Taking the puck in tight, he ran out of room as the box collapsed on him, but he was still able to produce a great look and a rebound opportunity.
Shortly after the Bisons first power play of the period expired, Calgary Hitmen prospect Andrew Viggars, took a cross-checking penalty, sending his team back to the penalty kill.
It didn’t take long for the creativity of Peyton Krebs to take over. Off the initial faceoff, he unveiled a new wrinkle — the no-look backhand pass.
Clayton is the biggest offensive weapon on the Bison blue line. Krebs telekinetically hit him in stride, as Clayton walked in and snapped a shot upstairs, bringing the Bisons within one.
That’s as close as the Bisons would cut it, despite a trio of glorious chances by Zach Huber, Kaden Hanas with a golden opportunity on a short-handed breakaway in the third, Jackson Salt and Krebs nearly connected on a handful of rushes and a couple great offensive shifts were turned in from Machado and Clayton, in what was a truly entertaining opening game.
“(Gauthier) is so good in his angles around the net. He’s going to stop a lot of shots, but we got to beat him in the three feet in front of the paint,” said Langen, as Gauthier went on to make 27 saves.
The Bisons did remarkably well considering they were basically down an entire line of forwards. Blake Wells was serving his one game suspension after picking up a game misconduct in the clincher against the Calgary Flames, Tyler Petrie is still week-to-week with a lower body injury and Tarun Fizer is still out indefinitely. Making matters tougher on the Bisons was the South Central Alberta Hockey League midget AA playoffs taking place this weekend, hogging most of their affiliated players. They were able to call up Jaevon Buschlen from the Rockyview Raiders minor midget squad. Buschlen has two assists in three regular season games with the Bisons this season and 11 goals and 30 points in 34 games with the Raiders.
“There definitely were some tongues hanging out on the bench, but the guys did a great job keeping their shifts short. It helps having a day off tomorrow, giving us a chance to recharge,” said Langen.
In the other AMHL semifinal, the Sherwood Park J. Ennis Kings needed five games to knock off the SSAC Boston Pizza Athletics, and will take on the Leduc Chrysler Oil Kings March 11, after the Kings eliminated the St. Albert Tire Warehouse Raiders in five games.