A buzzer beater and two sets of goals on consecutive shifts has the herd storming out of the gates in the HJHL final.
Alaister Standen scored twice with Adam Kirkpatrick, Simon Smith-Burness and Jaevon Buschlen also finding the back of the net as the Okotoks Bisons took Game 1 of the best-of-five Heritage Junior Hockey League championship series over the Cochrane Generals by a 5-2 count Friday night at the Murray Arena.
"We had no passengers today, everyone was going and we were playing like we were desperate," said Smith-Burness post-game. "We were playing with confidence, after the last couple games with Medicine Hat we buckled up a bit, but we got our confidence back.
"We're moving as a unit and that's always good to play that way with everyone going."
Cochrane opened the scoring on the powerplay through Dagan Kadlec and were poised to take the one-goal advantage into the intermission.
Not so fast.
Standen evened the score in the final second of the period after taking the puck to the net and firing a shot in tight over Generals netminder Davyn LaRocke.
"I remember looking at the clock before I went on the ice and saw about 25 seconds and that's the last time I looked so I was just playing normally," Standen said. "I didn't realize there was only a second left and ended up pulling it to my forehand and once it went in I heard the buzzer go off.
"Those period tying goals before you go into intermission are huge because when you come back out it's an equal playing field again."
Okotoks rode the momentum into the second frame and were swiftly riding a two-goal lead.
Standen deposited his second of the game and eighth of the playoffs after blocking a shot, turning on the jets and scoring a breakaway beauty with Adam Kirkpatrick adding his third of the playoffs on the ensuing shift on an odd-man rush.
Cochrane got one back late in the frame with Tristan Ripplinger firing from in tight for the visitors' second goal on the man-advantage.
In the third period, Smith-Burness snuck one past LaRocke on the strength of a strong forecheck built off linemate Scott Brown's huge open-ice check to create an odd-man rush. Buschlen scored on a rebound tally on the next shift as Okotoks once again showcased its quick-strike ability to round out the scoring.
"It's playoff hockey and you get going and when someone scores there's that much energy right behind you," Smith-Burness said. "I'm not sure if it's one (goal) caused the other, but it definitely pushes you in the right direction."
Friday marked the first meeting between the division champions since mid-September with the Generals making the switch to the Northern Division for the 2021-22 campaign.
"They're fast and have a lot of good layers going to the net, they are quick getting up ice as well," said Standen of the Generals. "We played them that (second) game of the year and they're a completely different team so it was almost like going into this a little bit blind.
"We knew how they played and kind of their systems and hadn't seen them since the start of the year, but it was a quick adjustment."
Game 2 is back at the Murray Arena on March 19 with a slightly earlier start time at 7:30 p.m. with the Bisons hoping for their boisterous support to continue to lift the team on home ice.
"I couldn't sleep last night, probably went to bed about two in the morning and had to get up at five for work then came here," Smith-Burness said. "It's nerve-racking, but then you get that first hit or first shot or that first stick in the lane and you're right back into your element.
"It's been electric to play, the fans have been electric this year so far."
HJHL Final schedule
Game 1: Cochrane at Okotoks. March 18, 8 p.m. Bisons win 5-2
Game 2: Cochrane at Okotoks. March 19, 7:30 p.m.
Game 3: Okotoks at Cochrane. March 24, 7:45 p.m.
Game 4: Okotoks at Cochrane. March 26, 7:30 p.m.
Game 5: Cochrane at Okotoks. March 27, 6 p.m.