After matching their win total from a season ago in just their twelfth game Saturday night, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons were looking to head home with a full six points during their first three in three weekend of the year Sunday afternoon in Sherwood Park.
The MOB (11-2-0) struck early and often and combined that offence with a solid defensive game which led them to a 5-1 win over Crusaders (6-7-0) and put them in sole possession of first place in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
“Full credit to our guys, each and every single one of our guys battled hard, everybody contributed,” said an over joyed Tom Keca, Head Coach of the MOB after the game. “That was a huge effort and I’m so proud of that group, we’ve got a lot to build on.”
The win was the Oil Barons seventh in a row and completed a weekend sweep of Camrose, Drumheller and Sherwood Park.
Prior to the game, Keca switched up his lines to try and get more out of certain players in his lineup. One switch was moving Will Conley off his usual wing with Shane Fraser and Brett Edwards. Conley responded immediately, racing down a loose puck and driving hard to the goal and beating Zac Klassen five hole to open the scoring 1:30 into the game.
“We just felt that maybe change would help and I thought (Brett) Edwards was good today too so maybe they’re just two really good players that can’t play with one another,” said Keca with laugh. “I just felt that putting Will in a different role could help him and Will does what Will needs to do to be successful so he broke through, uses his speed and strength and he got the ball rolling for us.”
The MOB would double their lead at the 14:15 mark when Jarred White banked a shot off Klassen’s back from behind the goal line for his second goal of the year.
In the second period the MOB found themselves in penalty trouble, picking up three straight minors. The Crusaders struggled to muster anything as the Barons forced the Crusaders to play on the outside and not allow anything in tight.
The Barons finally received a powerplay of their own late in the second and struck quickly. Brandon Ralph banged home a loose puck in the low slot, scoring for the fourth consecutive game to open up a 3-0 lead.
The Crusaders eventually broke through Eric Szudor in the third when Alex Rotundo’s centering pass hit a stick and deflected past the MOB goalie to make it 3-1.
The MOB bared down and that would be all the Crusaders would get. Hayden Ursulak made his return to the lineup after missing two games and sealed the win with an empty net goal with 2:21 remaining. Jack Hamly added another late when he ripped a shot into the top corner for his fourth goal of the season.
Szudor picked up his sixth win of the year, stopping 31 of 32 shots fired his way.
“Nobody cares who gets the credit which is the big thing,” said Keca on the team buying into his system. “That was about as complete an effort as you could ask for and for us to come out this weekend and get three wins is absolutely huge.”
Next up for the MOB is another three in three on the road. The Barons are in Sherwood Park on Friday, Whitecourt Saturday and Spruce Grove Sunday afternoon. You can listen to all three games on Country 93.3 with Taylor Pope.
Jack Hamly extended his point streak to seven games and has two goals and eight assists in that stretch. Curtis Roach had a big weekend on the back end picking up a goal and four assists over the three games. Brandon Ralph has seven points in his last four games.
Tom Keca on the Country 93.3 Post Game Show