Brandon Ralph scored two goals in the third period to help propel the Fort McMurray Oil Barons to a 4-3 win over the Spruce Grove Saints Saturday afternoon.
The win put the MOB (26-10-1) three points clear of the Saints (24-11-2) for third place in the North Division.
With the game tied 1-1 heading into the final frame, the teams combined for five goals with two Oil Barons veterans getting the three they needed for the win.
“The win reeked of character. We told our players that if we could be tied heading into the third period we would have taken it because we know that the leadership and the character that we have in the dressing room is second to none,” said MOB Head Coach Tom Keca on the win.
“Brandon Ralph gets two and Toby Shattler gets the other one so those are your 20 year old guys that you not only rely on on the ice but you rely on them off the ice.”
For the second game in a row the MOB scored early by throwing a shot on net from the point. Curtis Roach scored his ninth goal of the year off a faceoff win four seconds into the Barons first powerplay of the game to give them a 1-0 lead 2:23 into the first period.
The Barons and Saints had played four tight knit games already this season with the Saints coming out on top in three of them. The MOB would continue to hold onto their one goal lead in the second period as the Saints pressed for an equalizer. With the MOB shorthanded, the Saints were able to hem the MOB in their end for nearly the full two minutes. A gassed Taner Miller, and Kyler Newman were finally able to pin the puck on the boards and get a whistle, getting a huge cheer from their teammates on the bench
“We blocked eight shots in the second period and five of them were probably on that powerplay,” said Keca on the penalty kill. “Jackson McKinstry and Hayden Ursulak did a great job staying in lanes. They like to use a lot of movement up top and if you don’t bite for it you can keep them on the outside.”
The Saints would tie the game late in the frame as Angus Scott pounced on a rebound off a Jordan Thomas shot with 48 seconds left swinging the momentum to the Saints side.
An early powerplay in the third would give the Saints their first lead of the game when Connor Lukan beat Eric Szudor over the shoulder at 1:24.
The MOB would respond on a powerplay of their own when Brandon Ralph beat Nolan Kent from the left faceoff circle. JC Thivierge spotted the captain cross ice and he made no mistake for his 14th on the year.
The Barons would regain the lead just after the midway point of the period when an aggressive forecheck led to a turnover in front of the Saints goal. Toby Shattler outmuscled Sean Comrie and backhanded a shot past Kent.
Back and forth action led to chances at both ends of the rink as both teams looked for the all important next goal. It would be Ralph who got it, blasting a shot past Kent as he streaked down the right wing to double up the Barons lead 4-2.
The Saints would get one late on a goal by Eric Olson with 13 seconds left but it was too little too late as the Barons skated off with a 4-3 victory. In all five meetings so far this season, the road team has won every game.
“They keep amazing us, you go through that stretch in December where you question whether you have the team, do we have enough heaviness and things like that and then you get an effort like this and it’s a special group and we’re going to continue to try and get better,” said Keca on the teams complete effort for a second night in a row.
The Barons finished off their seven game road trip with a 5-2-0 record and will play six of nine January games at home.
“Every point is valuable as we’re coming down the stretch, there’s teams jockeying, there are teams right now that are trying to accurately assess what kind of team they have. Are they contenders, who’s going to be the team to beat so you want to establish an identity and a work ethic,” said Keca on the importance of games over the final two months of the year.
The MOB will take on the Camrose Kodiaks January 7th at the Casman Centre before hosting the Bonnyville Pontiacs for an afternoon contest on the 8th.