One night after having their 9 game winning streak snapped, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons put forth a much better effort Saturday night to get back in the win column with a 5-3 win over the visiting Sherwood Park Crusaders.
The MOB (34-10-2) fell behind 3-1 in the first period during Friday’s nights loss but Saturday it would be them who led 3-1 heading into the first intermission.
A quick strike just 23 seconds into the game from Jarred White would open the scoring. Liam Izyk dug the puck loose behind the Crusader goal and spotted White out front, his shot deflected off a defenders stick and past Zac Klassen for his fifth of the year.
“It’s one of those things where you play a hunch and the young guys were really good for us yesterday so you start them and they get the ball rolling with a great forecheck and hit some bodies and create a turnover and White gets rewarded for standing in front of the net,” said MOB head coach Tom Keca on starting his rookie line of White, Izyk and Nicholas Leeseberg.
The lead was short lived as the Crusaders (27-18-1) would tie the game 53 seconds later with a shorthanded goal from Darcy Zaharichuk. Ryan Rebelato fed Zaharichuk on a two on one, a diving Eric Szudor had no chance on the goal.
Not to be deflated, the Barons would regain the lead on the very same powerplay when Stefan Wood made a perfect slap pass to Jackson McKinstry in front of the goal, His deflection was stopped but the 20 year old picked up his own rebound and slipped it in for his sixth goal of the campaign.
The scoring wasn’t done there, the MOB would strike again at 4:44 when Nicholas Nietubyc’s shot squeaked through the arm of Klassen and sat in the crease behind him. Ryan Cox spotted the puck and poked it across the goal line to put the MOB up 3-1. That would be the end of Klassen’s night as Jake Morrissey came into the game.
The Crusaders would cut the lead to one 7:25 into the second period when Jesse Zaharichuk completed a tic-tac-toe passing play from Ty Readman and Matthew Dykstra.
The MOB would restore their two goal lead on a powerplay at 16:10 when Brandon Ralph busted his way towards the goal. His shot was stopped but the rebound popped out to Shane Fraser who fired home his seventh goal in the last 11 games to make it 4-2.
The Crusaders continued to hang around all night as Jesse Zaharichuk scored his second of the period 1:49 later to cut the lead to one once again.
The Crusaders pressed in the third period but Szudor made several big stops to keep the MOB out in front. The Barons would get the insurance they needed when Ralph laid out to block a shot and the puck ricocheted into centre ice. Dylan Rauh turned on the jets and blew past the Crusader defence and snapped a shot past the blocker of Morrissey to make it 5-3 with his second goal of the year.
“If it might not have been for Szudor it may have been a different story,” said Keca on the play of his goaltender. “All in all considering the injury bug that’s been creeping through the room which we would never use as an excuse, for us to get 3 out of 4 points this weekend we’ll take it.”
Next up for the MOB is the much anticipated battle of the top two teams in the North Division as they welcome the Whitecourt Wolverines to the Casman Centre on Friday and Saturday. As of Sunday morning, the clubs are tied for first place in the North with 70 points.
“They’re an extremely skilled team, a fast team that play with a lot of pace so if our guys aren’t willing to skate it’s going to be a long weekend for us,” said Keca.
“It’s a quirk in the schedule that we play them five times in the last 15 games but it’s a good measuring stick for us. They’re neck and neck with us for first place, they’re a very good hockey team, they’re obviously extremely well coached so it’s going to be a huge test for our guys and should be a good prelude into playoffs.”