A three goal second period that included captain Brandon Ralph dropping the gloves to protect his goaltender helped propel the Fort McMurray Oil Barons to a 3-1 win over the visiting Camrose Kodiaks Saturday night at the Casman Centre.
For only being the second meeting of the season between the two teams, the game had the intensity and physicality at times of two heated enemies.
Bodies and gloves were flying, mouths were yapping and the stick work at times was reminiscent of a great Canadian lumberjack.
The teams remained tied at 0-0 after the first period with the Barons (27-10-1) generating the better scoring chances in the game’s opening minutes before the Kodiaks (22-16-3) took over. Josh Williams made several big stops in the MOB goal, kicking out his pads in a fashion similar to 1980s Leafs goalie Mike Palmeteer as described by his coach.
“He makes it look interesting,” said MOB head coach Tom Keca with a smile as he compared his goalie to the Leafs great. “He’s one of those guys who’s looking around and shaking his head around and he’s looking to see who he might whack but he gets the job done.”
“He’s undefeated still in the Alberta Junior Hockey League and he made some crucial saves.”
The win was Williams’ 10th of the season and improved his AJHL record to 18-0-0 over his two years in the league.
During the Barons three game winning streak, one area that has been key in their success has been the face-off circle and winning draws in the offensive zone. Shane Fraser won a draw early in the second that was tipped back to the point by Ralph. Curtis Roach sent a shot in that bounced off the end boards right to Fraser who banged home his seventh goal of the year through the legs of Patrick Gora to open the scoring.
The MOB would double their lead at 8:23 of the frame when they were able to work the puck around the Kodiaks end eventually getting it in front of the goal when JC Thivierge slid the puck across the crease to Will Conley. Conley danced around Gora, patiently out waiting his outstretched leg before depositing his 14th goal of the campaign.
“I don’t know where the team in the second period came from but I’d like to see that team for 60 minutes because I thought that we moved our feet, we cycled, got pucks to the net and you’re hard to contain,” said Keca on his team who fired 22 shots on goal in the frame.
With the Barons up 2-0, the excitement was just beginning. With a little over three minutes left in the period, Williams came out to play the puck at the side of his goal when Slater Strong shoved him from behind into the boards. Ralph immediately came to the aid of his goaltender, laying several shots on Strong and sending the Kodiak to the ice, receiving a thunderous roar from the crowd. The captain received a game misconduct while Strong remained in the game receiving a double minor.
“Within a 60 minute game there’s several different ways that you can play,” said Keca. “If you want to play finesse, we can play finesse. If you want to rough it up we’ve got enough guys that can do that. I applaud Ralphy for coming to the aid of the goaltender, that’s a no brainer.”
Ralph’s response not only sparked the crowd but seemed to give the MOB bench an extra boost. Ryan Cox flew down the right wing and fired a pass cross ice for Kyler Newman who joined the rush. The defenceman tried to feed a pass back to Cox but it hit a Kodiak player and deflected into the net to put the MOB out in front 3-0.
The Kodiaks would get on the board early in the third period when Cooper Johnson was left all alone behind the MOB defence and slipped a shot through the legs of Williams. The goal would be as close as the Kodiaks would get on this night. Jordan Steenbergen and Eddie May had a spirited tilt just after the Johnson goal and a Tate Coughlin two handed slash to the back of the leg of Nicholas Leeseberg with under two minutes to play all but ended the Kodiaks comeback.
The win moved the Barons into second place in the North Division setting up a crucial game against the Bonnyville Pontiacs Sunday afternoon. The MOB and Pontiacs are separated by one point in the standings. The two teams take to the ice at 2:00 p.m. at the Casman Centre. Pre-game show begins at 1:45 p.m. on Country 93.3 with Taylor Pope and Bruce Ferguson.