T-Birds fall to Bisons, dominate Rangers

The Frog Lake T-Birds had a jam-packed schedule this weekend, playing three games in three days. They struggled to keep pace with the Wainwright Bisons on Friday night, but played well in back-to-back games against the Vegreville Rangers.

An odd anomaly in the schedule led to the T-Birds taking on Wainwright for the third week in a row. The first of those match ups was a tight game. Frog Lake just missed out on a comeback win, losing 6-5 in overtime. Last week’s game was slightly more decisive in Wainwright’s favour, winning 3-0, and this weekend even more so.

Friday vs. Wainwright

Although the T-Birds looked relatively sharp during the first period, the Bison’s powerful offence was in full force on Friday night. Wainwright got up early with an unlucky goal just a minute into the game; a goal of the “right place, right time” variety. But the early deficit seemed to put momentum in Frog Lake’s favour, rather than Wainwright’s. The T-Birds held control of the play for the better portion of the period, with a few scoring chances coming their way. But they failed to capitalise on any golden moments, which hurt them in the long run.

Things fell apart in the second period for the T-Birds. The Bisons scored another quick goal at the start of the second period after an extended battle in front of Frog Lake goalie Justin Fedoruk. This goal, in a sense, opened the floodgates for Wainwright. They had a flurry of excellent chances over the next several minutes as they maintained excellent pressure in the T-Birds’ end. One shot went off the post, another just barely high and wide. Even when on the penalty kill, the Bisons still held control for the majority of the period. Frog Lake managed to keep the Bisons from scoring again until the final five minutes of the second period. On a breakout rush, Wainwright’s Cole Johnson scored a beautiful top-shelf goal, followed immediately by another Bisons goal to end the period with Wainright up 4-0.

The third period was more of the same, though the T-Birds did look to have a bit more life in them, despite allowing another 3 goals. Wainwright scored a quick power-play goal and followed it with another goal less than a minute later to give themselves a 6-0 lead. Peter Willier did finally manage to put Frog Lake on the board with a goal dead-on halfway through the third. But his efforts were quickly negated with another Bisons goal 30 seconds later, ending the night with a 7-1 final score.

“We played decent tonight, but just didn’t really have any offence, and [Wainwright] capitalised on all their chances” said Frog Lake coach Harvey Smyl. “They’re a very deep team; well-coached, play within their system, and really tough to beat. You need some breaks, and we didn’t get any. We just couldn’t finish. Their goalie played really well, their defense is really good, and they are just structurally sound. You have to be at your very best to beat them.”

Saturday vs. Vegreville

Moving into Saturday night, again at home, the pressure was less intense as the T-Birds hosted the winless Vegreville Rangers. Frog Lake soundly defeated them 9-0 early in November and repeated that success this weekend.

On Saturday night, Austin Bill got the early opening goal for Frog Lake three minutes into the game. Bill’s goal was followed up by an absolute ripper by Jamal Daniels, who scored less than a minute later.

“The puck was just there, sitting for me,” Daniels said. “I had to get it on net, and sure enough it got in.”

The Rangers scored a late first-period goal to bring them back within one, and then tied it up to start the second period. But with the game tied, Frog Lake got to work.

The T-Birds scored three back-to-back goals in the second. Darian Gamble assisted on a beautiful goal by Darwin Morin, and Bill scored his second of the night on the power-play. Tobie Opikokew rounded out Frog Lake’s second-period score sheet with a great unassisted effort. The Rangers, once again, managed to score in the final minute of the period, bringing the score to 5-3 for Frog Lake.

Careful not to get comfortable with a two-goal lead, the T-Birds redoubled their offensive play in the third period, and it paid off. Opikokew scored his second of the night to give Frog Lake some breathing room. Then, Daniels scored his second to put the T-Birds up 7-3 before Gamble scored Frog Lake’s eighth and final goal of the night.

“We made a ton of mistakes early,” said Smyl after Saturday’s game. “We turned it over lots, and didn’t get it in deep. We became very selfish and weren’t playing as units. But there was a good response by Darwin [Morin] in the second to get us back on the board.”

Frog Lake’s domination over the Rangers continued on the road on Sunday afternoon. The T-Birds made easy work of Vegreville, outscoring them 11-4. Bill, Morin, Curtis Scales, and Peter Horse each had two goals on the afternoon, with the remaining three goals coming courtesy of Opikokew, Navarro Lane, and Gamble.

On the Road

Frog Lake won’t play any games at home this weekend. They’ll head to St. Paul on Friday night to take on the Canadiens (8-7-1). Then, on Saturday night, they’ll be in Lac La Biche to take on the Clippers (13-1-0), who led the league until this weekend.

JD Schmidt

JD is a reporter who works with Lakeland Connect to bring you the most reliable and honest news that he possibly can. He understands the effective combination of accurate reporting and fine journalistic writing.