With the weather slowly, but surely getting colder, what better time for the 2015- 2016 ACAC hockey season to get underway. Last season’s defending ACAC champion NAIT Ooks men opened the new campaign by playing host to the Keyano Huskies out of Fort McMurray.
Two different games with the same result is a perfect, short and sweet summary for how the Ooks’ 5-1 and 6-1 victories went on Friday and Saturday. The sweep puts the Ooks in fourth place, though the three teams ahead of them in the standings have all played four games.
In the first of the two-game set, the Ooks and Huskies looked to be neck and neck with each other and, late in the first period, the game started to get chippy. Both head coaches were not very pleased with their team’s play early in the contest, as NAIT led 1-0 thanks to a seeingeye shot from forward Connor Hoekstra. In the second, number four came out of the penalty box to sneak behind the Keyano defence for another goal. Despite Keyano cutting the deficit to one, the Ooks were able to turn up the heat in the third period and bury the Huskies with a flurry of goals, including a beauty from team captain Scott Fellnermayr.
NAIT outshot Keyano 41-34, with 17 of those missiles coming in the third period alone. The POG for the Ooks went to Hoekstra for his two-goal effort. Goaltender Kyle Birch made 33 saves for the win. After the game the forward spoke well of rookie head coach Mike Gabinet, who is the grandson of Edmonton coaching legend Clare Drake. Gabinet said it was a nice way to start the year and it was important to keep it going in the next day’s game.
The Ooks did exactly that, they jumped on top with another big win, outshooting the Huskies 52-20. Tyler French was the only player to find the back of the net in the opening period, but the Ooks broke through during the next 40 minutes. Kevin Carthy, Trace Elson, Charles Wells, Klarc Wilson and Jordan Apt all found the back of the net, while Fellnermayr and Jordan Wood both added a pair of assists. Cameron only had to make 19 saves for back-to-back wins. After the game Nate Bedford, the Keyano Huskies coach, said one of the key players to watch for his squad this year would be Jimmy Sheehan on the back end, whom he said always has been known for having bounce back games and it was important to keep it going in the next day’s game.
Gabinet admitted the group needs to work on discipline, picking up 26 minutes in penalties over the weekend. The Ooks are back in action next weekend when they take on the Red Deer College Kings, who shutout the Briercrest Clippers 11-0 over two games. Opening whistle at NAIT on Oct. 9 is at 7 p.m. The following day, NAIT travels to RDC, with the puck drop once again at 7 p.m.