The Fort McMurray Oil Barons needed a much better effort Saturday night than the one they put forth Friday if they were to take down the first place Whitecourt Wolverines.
The MOB (35-10-3) rebounded and answered every call, defeating the Wolverines 4-3 and picking up a huge two points. The MOB now sit one point back of Whitecourt (35-11-4) with two games in hand on their division rival.
“We expected a better effort and we got a better effort,” said MOB head coach Tom Keca. “We threw pucks to the net, we got more traffic, there was a little more resiliency and relentlessness on the puck.”
The MOB would open the scoring for the second straight night off a faceoff win by Shane Fraser. The puck went back to Stefan Wood who sent a shot through a sea of bodies, the rebound bounced right to Dylan Rauh and he hammered home his third goal of the season at the 16:00 mark.
The Wolverines would tie the game before the period was out when Tanner Foster floated a shot towards the goal from the boards that beat an unsuspecting Eric Szudor up over the shoulder.
With 5.5 seconds left in the period, the Wolverines iced the puck giving the MOB an offensive zone face-off. The MOB struggled mightily in the face-off circle Friday night but were much better on Saturday. Fraser tied up his man allowing Brandon Ralph to come in and tip the puck back to Taner Miller who quickly wristed a shot past Pierce Diamond with 1.8 seconds left on the clock. The goal was Miller’s 7th of the year and gave the MOB a 2-1 lead.
“There’s a technique to the face-off, stick positioning, are you going to try and win the puck or tie up the player but really when it boils down to it it’s making sure you can see that linesmans hand and when that puck goes down there’s just that compete,” said Keca about his teams success in the face-off circle.
The Wolverines would not let the late goal deter them as they came out hard in the second period scoring two goals in the opening 6:13. Justin Young deposited a rebound on an early powerplay before Jaedon Leslie finished off a three way passing play to give the Wolverines their first lead of the game 3-2.
The MOB would appear to tie the game moments later when Hayden Ursulak deflected a point shot past Diamond. The goal was immediately waved off and after a quick discussion was deemed a high stick.
The Barons would continue to forecheck hard as Zach Bannister and Liam Izyk created a turnover down low. Izyk got the puck to Nicholas Leeseberg who drove hard to the goal and was stopped by Diamond but he stuck with the puck and slid it back towards the goal. The puck hit a Wolverine skate and ended up in the back of the net to tie the game 3-3.
Mid-way through the third period the MOB would convert on a powerplay to put them back out in front. Curtis Roach weaved through a pair of defenders before firing a shot that was stopped. The rebound fell right to Ryan Cox who backhanded his 16th goal of the year into the back of the net. Cox now has goals in three straight games.
A late flurry from the Wolverines left fans on the edge of their seats but the MOB stood their ground, blocking shots and winning puck battles all over the ice to hang on for their first win of the season against Whitecourt.
MOB captain Brandon Ralph was a game time decision after taking a cross check to the face Friday night. Morgan Messenger was handed a two game suspension for the hit. Ralph sported a full cage but played with the same grit and physically MOB fans have seen all season.
“There was no way you were keeping him out of the lineup,” said Keca on his captain. “We were going to monitor his minutes and let him take warmup and he said he was good to go so he actually played more than we anticipated.”
The MOB will head out on the road for a three game set this coming weekend. They will be in Grande Prairie Friday and Saturday before a Sunday afternoon game in Whitecourt. You can catch all the action on Country 93.3 with Taylor Pope.
Tom Keca Post Game Show