Photo credit: Xander Holcomb, Renegades Photography
The Blackfalds Bulldogs and Okotoks Oilers’ six-game season series in the 2022-23 campaign was split down the middle with each team registering three wins apiece. Each game was won by the home team, which meant Blackfalds, even though they were coming off of a 5-2 loss to the Oilers in Okotoks on Friday night, had some confidence as they hosted their familiar foes Saturday night at the EBC.
The first period of play was largely a neutral zone stalemate with both teams’ defences, with the Bulldogs generating both of the grade ‘A’ scoring chances. First, it was a rush from Bulldogs defenceman Carter Patterson that opened up space in the right face-off circle of the Oilers zone for Luke Dahlen to have a clean look on goal. Dahlen’s shot blew past Shane Shelest in the Okotoks goal but rang off the underside of the crossbar and bounced away from danger. The Bulldogs’ second big chance had the same result, with an excellent passing play on the man advantage seeing the puck quickly worked from Layne Loomer, to Jayden Joly, to Brendan Ross, to Eddie Moskowitz whose shot from in tight hit the goal post behind Shelest.
After 40 minutes in which the Bulldogs had outshot the Oilers by a 23-14 margin, it was the Oilers who cranked up the shot volume in the third. Whilst initially Blackfalds’ newly-acquired netminder Wilson Maxfield seemed invincible, an unfortunate sequence in the Bulldogs crease led to Hunter Sawka being given the chance to open the scoring for Okotoks from a penalty shot. Sawka’s beautiful move from his backhand to his forehand froze Maxfield, allowing Sawka to squeak the puck in behind him and make it 1-0 Okotoks. Blackfalds’ newest addition, Dakota MacIntosh, was deemed guilty of dropping less than 90 seconds after the goal, giving the Oilers a powerplay and a chance to double the lead. Despite being shorthanded, Bulldogs defenceman Carter Patterson made two excellent plays as the Oilers tried to gain entry into the Bulldogs zone. Quick stick checks on both Kade Turner and Sawka sprung Alexander Dimitriadis on a rush back the other way, with Patterson jumping up with him. Dimitriadis found Patterson at the top of the Okotoks crease, and Patterson’s quick move from his forehand to his backhand gave him an empty cage to slot the puck into, tying the game 1-1 with his second goal in three games.
The Oilers, however, didn’t quit pushing on their powerplay, and just 1:17 later would retake their lead. A long Sam Hall wrist shot from the point found its way through traffic, with Wilson Maxfield making a good reactionary save, but he couldn’t keep the rebound out of the reach of Okotoks captain Dean Spak, who chipped his shot over Maxfield’s blocker and in. Yet again, however, the Bulldogs didn’t stay behind for too long. Another excellent passing play from the Bulldogs moved the puck from Brendan Ross to Dakota MacIntosh whose drop pass found Tanner Willick in the slot. Willick hit the post behind Shane Shelest, but Brendan Ross quickly pounced on the rebound and tied things up at two. The Bulldogs’ top guns went to work again short thereafter, with Willick giving MacIntosh the puck for a rush into the zone. MacIntosh found Ross from behind the net in the right circle, and Ross made no mistake, snapping his shot over Shelest’s blocker. Okotoks had some great chances to tie things up, with first Jagger Tapper denied by Maxfield on a two-on-zero rush, followed by great saves off Hunter Sawka and Sam Huck. An Okotoks turnover in the neutral zone gave Alexander Dimitriadis the chance to seal things, and he made no mistake, sticking it away into the empty net, making it 4-2.