The Carstar Okotoks Bisons are off to Provincials which start on April 3 and go until April 7. This comes after the Herd won the Heritage Junior B (HJHL) finals on Saturday when they beat the Sylvan Lake Wranglers 1-0 in game six to win the seven-game series 4-2.

This is the third time in a row that the Bisons have made it to the Provincial championships, winning Bronze their first time around and a silver medal their second time around. This year they aim to continue to climb the podium and bring back gold to Okotoks.

Brad Cobb, head coach of the Bisons reflects on the final series with Sylvan Lake which helped them land a spot at Provincials.

"It was a really good hockey series; I knew the team was evenly matched going in. We weren't surprised at how hard Sylvan Lake pushed us at the end of the day. I think it was a really exciting series to watch, if you got out to watch the games you weren't disappointed," Cobb said.

The Bisons were known for their crash-and-bang style, storming the net and creating opportunities. Cobb and his team moved away from that a bit in the final games and focused more on cycling the puck around which paid dividends for them.

"We kind of focused on it a little later on, we made a few adjustments. A lot of times we were doing a lot of low to highs right away. But we tried to cycle that puck and try and sink their forwards a little bit more defensively that would open up our points. That was kind of the gameplan there and it seemed to work," he said.

A key player in the final two games and in both wins during games five and six was goaltender Grady Nicholas. The Herd's goaltender wouldn't let in a single goal for a full 120 minutes, giving the Bisons back-to-back shutouts in crucial games.

"It was phenomenal for him, obviously he's a really good goaltender who won Goalie of The Year during the regular season. He came off a little bit of a rough game a week before that, and it just shows you what kind of competitor he is. He answered the bell, back-to-back shutouts. It's phenomenal," Cobb said.

Daniel Tainton was another bright spot in the series, scoring goals and getting involved in every play.

"He took it to another level, he's a 21-year-old hockey player in his last year. He's playing like it's his last year, he's showing that he wants to compete and help carry this team to a gold medal hopefully here at the end of the week. He has just really answered the bell," he said. 

Scott Brown for the Herd was also noticeable every single night, screening the Wranglers goalie, finishing checks, and being a complete nuisance for the opposing team.

"He provides a lot of energy for our hockey club, he's like the Matthew Tkachuk of the HJHL. He tends to get into people's faces on the opposition and create a lot of ice for his linemates with his aggressive play," Cobb added.

Cobb gave credit to his team for really turning it around after the game four loss when they got beat by the Wranglers 6-1. Some teams could shrink after a beating like that, but the Herd stayed strong and played their game which completed the "three-peat."

A team the Bisons played last year in Provincials was the Wainwright Bisons, and while there has been turnover with the players on both teams, Cobb is using some of what they learned about the team last year to help boost their chances this year.

"You can take away from it. Wainwright Bisons have a phenomenal program; they have always been in Provincials since I can remember. They probably have the same approach that we do, it's a different name and jersey, but it's culture and a way of playing," said Cobb.

We know at the end of the day they are the defending champions, and we are going to have to be playing really well and have monumental efforts from all our guys to win that."

The team will have a couple of days to relax and enjoy what they have accomplished so far, including the sweet and blissful bus ride home after claiming the series against the Wranglers. 

"Super excitable, the bus line was phenomenal. Our bus driver was phenomenal, he was just as excited as our players were. It was a bit of a party bus coming down the Q2 there, going from Sylvan Lake. They had their music going, enjoying their conversations, lots of hugs and celebrations."