Bisons gear up for late season playoff race
Monday, Feb 13, 2017 02:58 pm
If the CFR Chemical Bisons have any hope of taking top spot in Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League (AMHL) Chrysler Division, it’s going to need to finish the season strong and with some help from some positive results.
As of Feb. 10, the Bisons currently sit second in the division, three points back of the division-leading Calgary Buffalos with a game in hand, meaning the team will have to put pressure on its rivals by closing out the season with as many wins as possible. But the Bisons will need a slip up from the Buffalos if it hopes to leapfrog it and win the division.
“We need four out of the next eight points available to clinch a bye,” head coach Sandy Henry said. “It would be certainly nice for us to look after that with a couple of wins.
“We’ve given the points to (the Buffalos) and put ourselves in this spot but now we can only look after our games. Our focus is to win four games and see where the chips lie after that.”
The Bisons had an outstanding month of January. Following a positive showing at the annual Mac’s Midget Tournament, the team won four of five games, outscoring its opponents 24-9 in that span.
The Bisons’ lone loss of the month came Jan. 15 against the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs, a team hot on the heels of the Bisons, just three points back, but with two more games played.
The Chiefs had been a thorn in the side of the Bisons this season, ending the Bisons’ winning streak at the start of the season at eight, with a tie in October and now handing the team its only loss this past month.
Henry said the Chiefs play a style of hockey that counters the Bisons’ usually freewheeling offence and makes them a tough team to face in the future.
“Red Deer is a tough team. They’re big and strong,” Henry said. “They play a close and controlled defensive style. They’re very hard to score against.
“They don’t let the puck get into the real good scoring areas.”
The Bisons were also handed another blow during the loss to Red Deer when rookie Tarun Fizer of Chestermere was injured and has been held out of the lineup since.
The 15-year-old was enjoying an impressive rookie campaign, sitting second on the team in points with 31 (13g, 18a) in 27 games.
The Bisons had an opportunity to take a hold of first in the division on Feb. 1 when it took on the Buffalos in Calgary. Unfortunately the Bisons fell 5-2 to the host team, dropping both matchups to the Buffalos this season and giving its rival all the control heading into the final stretch of the regular season.
After trailing 2-0 in the early stages of the first, the Bisons roared back with a pair of its own to tie it up before the midway point of the opening frame.
Calgary followed up with a third goal just seconds later and never relinquished the lead after that.
Although his team has dropped both games against the Buffalos this season, Henry said he feels his team isn’t demoralized from the losses. On the contrary, he said he believes they have just motivated his team for the potential next time they meet this season.
“We came out of that game and the kids were sure we could beat them,” Henry said. “We’ve got to prove it and that’s on us, but on a team sense they didn’t feel outclassed (by Calgary).
“It’s like they felt like they didn’t give their best game out there.”
The remainder of the schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Bisons as it still has a pair of games against the top two teams in the Dodge Division, but also have a pair of games against two teams outside of the AMHL playoff picture.
With the diversity of opponents, Henry said his team isn’t taking any game for granted, knowing how important each game is to making a push for home ice advantage through the playoffs.
The Bisons conclude its season with two games over the weekend of Feb. 18, where it takes on the Sherwood Park J. Ennis Kings at home and head out on the road for a game against the Southeast Athletic Club Tigers Feb. 19.