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One AJHL South Semi-Final is over while another has been extended into the weekend. The Okotoks Oilers are off to the AJHL South Division Final and continued to add to a record win streak by moving past the Camrose Kodiaks in four straight games. The four wins bring the Oilers’ win streak to 28 going back to the regular season, which is obviously a testament to consistent play but it’s also indicative of finding ways to win. This is exactly what the Oilers had to do against the Kodiaks, especially in the last two games of the series at the Encana Arena in Camrose.
The Oilers were able to build a 2-0 series lead after a 5-2 victory in Game 1, which saw them execute in their special teams by scoring twice on four power plays and killing off all six of their penalties. In Game 2, Oilers goaltender Riley Morris was able to turn aside 21 Kodiak shots - including 11 in the 3rd period - to record a shutout with the Oilers winning 3-0. While the Oilers would go 0/5 on the power play on the night, they were able to once again be very strong with a man down, and killing off all five Kodiak power plays was significant in a game which stood at 1-0 for nearly two thirds of the night.
When the series shifted to Camrose, the Kodiaks were able to keep it close and take their first lead of the series with a Carson Welke goal early in the 2nd period but the Oilers power play would reawaken before the period was out to tie it up at 1-1. Okotoks would strike again with the man advantage with Dylan Holloway’s power play goal just over six minutes into the 3rd period standing as the winner. Facing elimination in Game 4, Camrose would capitalize on several opportunities and led 2-1 in the 2nd and 3-2 with less than five minutes to go in the game. However, the Oilers dug deep and a Holloway power play goal with just 3:19 remaining would force overtime. The Kodiaks would go shot for shot with the Oilers in the extra frame, but at 12:08 of the first overtime Oilers forward Tanner Laderoute would end the series and the season of the Camrose Kodiaks.
The Oilers will await the winner of the Brooks Bandits and the Drumheller Dragons, who will meet for a Game 5 this weekend. The Bandits and Dragons series started in similar fashion to the other South Semi-Final, though the higher-seeded Bandits were able to win in a much more convincing fashion over the series’ first three games. In Game 1, the Bandits would go up 2-0 after the 1st period and never look back, securing a 6-1 win while goaltender Mitchel Benson turned aside 26 of 27 Dragons shots. In Game 2, Brooks would clamp down on Drumheller, but the Dragons were able to make the most of their limited opportunities. The Dragons were only down 2-1 after being outshot 15-2 in the 1st period, a trend which somewhat followed in the 2nd period with the Bandits up 4-2 heading into the final frame despite holding a 27-6 lead in shots. The Dragons would then outshoot Brooks in the 3rd, 6-5, but would never come within a goal as the Bandits and Dragons traded markers to bring about a 5-3 final score.
With the Dragons down a pair of games in the AJHL South Semi, the Bandits would once again win in convincing fashion, building a 5-0 lead after two periods of pla y- including short handed tallies from Jakob LaPointe and Arnaud Vachon in the 2nd period. Despite the lofty lead, the Bandits were only outshooting the Dragons 20-16 at the time. Markus Boguslavsky would get the Dragons on the board in the 3rd period, but Brooks would also add a goal with just over five minutes remaining to make it a 6-1 final.
With their season on the line in Game 4, the Dragons came out spitting fire. Drumheller outshot Brooks 12-6 in the 1st period, but it would stay scoreless until the Bandits got on the board early in the 2nd period thanks to Will Garin. Undeterred, the Dragons kept at it and Brett Edwards would tie the game just past the halfway mark and Drumheller took their first lead of the series just under two minutes later courtesy of Tyler Kreklewich. However, Garin would score once again shortly after the start of the 3rd and with the teams all knotted up, Edwards scored his second of the night for the Dragons with 5:12 remaining. Drumheller was able to hang on for the win, extending their season and the series with Game 5 set for Brooks tomorrow night at 7 PM.
-Tom Strangward @TheOneNDTom