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Foothills and Leduc Clash for Midget AAA Championship

By Neil Hilts on March 20, 2017

The Foothills Bisons, South Division Champions, are in the AMHL final for the third year in a row and are looking for redemption after falling to Lloydminster last year. (Courtesy of the Strathmore Times on Facebook)

For the third year in a row, the Foothills CFR Chemical Bisons are in the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League (AMHL) Finals, and after last year’s loss, they’re looking for redemption.

After posting the second-best record in the regular season, the Bisons beat two Calgary teams to reach the finals. They’ll face the Leduc Chrysler Oil Kings, who have had a slightly longer road.

The Oil Kings were just under .500 on the year, posting a 14-15-5 record, good for third in the North. They’ve played in three rounds to the Bisons’ two, since Foothills got a first round bye.

Based on the regular season records, Foothills should be huge favourites as they finished with 20 more points than Leduc. The Oil Kings have outperformed their season totals, beating the North’s top two teams en route to the finals.

However, the Oil Kings got the upper hand in Sunday’s Game 1 in Strathmore (Foothills). Dillon Hamaliuk, an affiliated player, and Tyler Schendel each had a goal and an assist to push the Oil Kings to a 3-1 win and 1-0 series lead. Easton Hesse had 24 saves for Leduc, while Foothills’ Ben Laidlaw struggled, allowing three goals on 16 shots.

There will be plenty of travel for the final series, with games shifting between cities each game. The teams travel back to Leduc for Game 2, with the series set to wrap up in Strathmore if a Game 5 is needed.

SEMIFINALS

Foothills clashed with the Calgary Buffaloes in the semifinals and it was closely contested, with each game decided by at least one goal. Foothills finished with more wins than Calgary, but the Buffaloes had a few more ties, ending up one point higher in the standings for the regular season title.

The Buffaloes took Game 1 with a 2-1 score, but Foothills won three straight to advance to the finals. Games 3 and 4 were both 3-2 double overtime wins for the Bisons, with Tyson Terretta and Brandon Machado notching the game winning goals. Laidlaw’s 52-save win in Game 3 was one of the top performances of the series.

Foothills’ leading scorers are Peyton Krebs with nine points, Machado with eight and Kaden Hanas and with seven. Laidlaw is 6-2 with a .923 save percentage and 2.34 GAA.

For Leduc, they drew the Sherwood Park J. Ennis Kings, the North’s No. 1 team. They managed a sweep, but it wasn’t easy, winning games one and two in OT. Game 2, a triple overtime thriller, was ended when Dawson Blanchette scored halfway through the game’s sixth period. Easton Hesse had a 49 saves in the victory.

In the clincher, affiliate player Hamaliuk buried two goals as the Oil Kings won 6-3. Hamaliuk was a sixth round draft choice of the Seattle Thunderbirds in 2015 and played 17 games with them this year before returning to the Oil Kings, bringing a wealth of experience. He’s tied for the playoff lead in scoring with 10 points. Schendel, Tyler Smithies and Colby Wolters each have nine points.

The winner of the AMHL will play in the Pacific Region Finals against the winner of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League for a spot in the TELUS Cup, hosted in Prince George at the end of April.

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By Neil Hilts| March 20, 2017
Categories:  Minor Hockey
Keywords:  AB Minor Hockey

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