Saints put vice grip on Oil­ers

Spruce Grove Saints pull within a win of Al­berta Ju­nior Hockey League ti­tle

Calgary Sun - - SPORTS - dvandi­est@post­ @derek­vandi­est

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — The Spruce Grove Saints took a stran­gle­hold in the Al­berta Ju­nior Hockey League fi­nal against the Oko­toks Oil­ers on an emo­tional night on Mon­day at the Grant Fuhr Arena.

Lo­gan Ganie scored twice to lead the Saints to a 3-1 vic­tory over the Oil­ers, giv­ing them a 3-0 lead in the best-of­seven se­ries. Chris Van Os-Shaw scored the other for Spruce Grove while goal­tender Nolan Kent made 19 saves.

Re­gan Doig scored for Oko­toks and goal­tender Ri­ley Mor­ris made 14 saves.

Game 4 of the se­ries is Tues­day (7 p.m.) in Spruce Grove.

“The start, you can’t ask much bet­ter than that in a fi­nal se­ries,” said Saints head coach Bram Stephen. “We ex­e­cuted on the power play early on, which is nice to have an early power play and even bet­ter to score on it. I thought the guys buried on the chances they had in the first and then the next 40 min­utes felt like weath­er­ing a big storm. It was a lit­tle bit ugly, a lit­tle bit mucky, but the boys were com­mit­ted to pro­tect­ing their house.”

Prior to the game, the Saints took the warm-up in jer­seys hon­our­ing for­mer team­mates Parker Tobin and Con­ner Lukan, who were among the 16 peo­ple who died in the Hum­boldt Bron­cos bus crash on April 6.

Tobin and Lukan had both played for Spruce Grove be­fore be­ing traded to Hum­boldt. It was the first home game for the Saints since the ac­ci­dent. Both teams also gath­ered around the cir­cle at cen­tre ice for a mo­ment of si­lence for Tobin and Lukan.

The Saints did not make any play­ers avail­able af­ter the game.

Spruce Grove won the first two games of the se­ries in Oko­toks on the week­end.

Ganie opened the scor­ing 2:15 into the con­test on the power play, snap­ping a shot over the shoul­der of Mor­ris from the right face-off cir­cle.

Ganie in­creased the Saints lead at 10:52 with an­other laser to the top cor­ner, but this time from the op­po­site cir­cle.

“He’s got a great shot, it’s kind of de­ceiv­ingly both ac­cu­rate, hard and heavy,” Stephen said. “He had time and space a cou­ple of times and we’ve seen that a cou­ple of times this year where he has time and space on the power play, and he’s pretty dan­ger­ous in ar­eas where most guys aren’t.”

Van Os-Shaw gave Spruce Grove a 3-0 lead with 1:01 left in the pe­riod, out­muscling an Oil­ers de­fence­man be­hind the Oko­toks net, then col­lect­ing the puck out in front, be­fore roof­ing a sharp-an­gle shot over Mor­ris.

Van Os-Shaw, 20, leads AJHL play­off scor­ing with 11 goals and 19 points in 11 games. The Regina, Sask., prod­uct was ac­quired from Hum­boldt in the off-sea­son and won the AJHL scor­ing ti­tle.

The Oil­ers tried to pay spe­cial at­ten­tion to Van Os-Shaw through­out the con­test, at­tempt­ing to be phys­i­cal with him at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity.

“That’s not any­thing new, he’s faced that in ev­ery se­ries so far,” Stephen said. “Not only is he able to stand there and take it, but he’s dis­ci­plined about it too.”

Oko­toks came out hard in the sec­ond and pulled back goal on Doig’s marker at 6:28 of the sec­ond. The Oil­ers for­ward beat Kent from in close.

Late in the pe­riod, Kent made a num­ber of ex­cel­lent saves to keep the Oil­ers from cut­ting the deficit.

The Oil­ers dom­i­nated in the third, which seemed to be played ex­clu­sively in the

Saints end. Oko­toks, how­ever, were un­able to cut the deficit as Spruce Gove did an ex­cel­lent job of get­ting plenty of bod­ies be­hind the puck.

“We’re not used to that ei­ther,” Stephen said. “We didn’t push for­ward a ton and we didn’t man­age pucks when we had chances to ex­e­cute. We were sat­is­fied with chip­ping it and giv­ing it back to them. We needed to have cleaner ex­its out of our zone in or­der to change mo­men­tum and our guys we maybe guilty of not play­ing as des­per­ate as their hockey team and it showed.”

The Saints can claim their fifth AJHL cham­pi­onship in the past nine sea­sons with a vic­tory Tues­day. They won their last ti­tle in 2015.

Spruce Grove Saints’ Chris Van Os-Shaw cel­e­brates a goal on Oko­toks’ Oil­ers’ net­min­der Ri­ley Mor­ris dur­ing the first pe­riod of Game 3 of the AJHL fi­nals at Grant Fuhr Arena in Spruce Grove Mon­day night.


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