*Written/Supplied by Okotoks Oilers (click on link for video highlights)
Ty Yoder (Tofield, AB) scored back-to-back goals in the second period on Wednesday to help the Okotoks Oilers overcome an early deficit and ultimately defeat the Drumheller Dragons 3–1 in Game 4 of their Viterra AJHL South semifinal playoff series.
The Oilers and Dragons now have two wins apiece as the series shifts back to Drumheller for Game 5 on Saturday; one team will have a 3–2 advantage when the puck drops in Okotoks for Game 6 next Tuesday.
Dean Spak (Calgary, AB) found the back of the net late in the third period on Wednesday to give the Oilers a critical two-goal cushion over the visitors. After outshooting the Dragons by a 7–6 margin in a relatively tight opening frame, the Oilers generated 23 shots to Drumheller’s eight in the final 40 minutes of play.
Jack McNaughton (Calgary, AB) returned to tend goal for the Oilers after making an early exit from Game 1 of the series and subsequently sitting out the next two contests due to injury.
After Dragons defenceman Ben Christian (Red Deer County, AB) scored from the neutral zone early in the first period thanks to a wild bounce off a stanchion, McNaughton locked it down the rest of the way. The 20-year-old goaltender made 13 saves on 14 Drumheller shots and was named the game’s second star for his efforts.
One big reason for the Oilers’ Game 3 loss was their poor performances on special teams. The Dragons held the Oilers to just one power-play goal on six opportunities and scored four goals of their own on their five chances with an extra attacker. Drumheller also victimized the Oilers for a shorthanded goal in Tuesday’s lopsided game, which ultimately ended 6–1 in the Dragons’ favour.
On Wednesday, it was the Oilers’ turn to win via special teams. Drumheller failed to score on its lone power play of the game; at the other end of the ice, the Oilers struck twice on seven opportunities with the extra man.
Both of Yoder’s goals came on the power play, with McNaughton making a beautiful stretch pass to spring the 19-year-old winger for a breakaway chance. With Dragons defenceman Kiano Robinson (Calgary, AB) in close pursuit, Yoder managed to create space for himself in stride and beat opposing goaltender Eric Ward (Edmonton, AB) with a slick backhand five-hole move.
Spak’s tally allowed the Oilers to breathe more easily with just 3:18 remaining in regulation time. The 19-year-old forward scooped up a turnover in the Oilers’ offensive zone, carried the puck to the high slot, and fired a shot that appeared to glance off Christian’s stick before sailing over Ward’s glove.
The Oilers will have an opportunity to take a 3–2 series lead over the Dragons when they return to action for Game 5 in Drumheller on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. MT. Oilers play-by-play voice Gino De Paoli will be on the call for that game on The Eagle 100.9.
— Mike Gould