The Fort McMurray Oil Barons are once again back in sole position of first place in the North Division after a convincing 4-1 win over the Grande Prairie Storm Saturday night.
The win puts the MOB (37-10-3) two points up on the idle Whitecourt Wolverines with the MOB still holding a game in hand.
The two teams will meet twice this week including a pivotal game Sunday afternoon in Whitecourt.
“In this league it’s very hard to beat the same team twice back to back it doesn’t matter who you’re playing so for our guys to come up with an effort that was worthy of two points it’s a credit to them,” said MOB head coach Tom Keca on the win.
The Barons would capitalize on two early powerplays to open up a 2-0 lead 7:27 into the first period. Taner Miller would fire a shot wide of the Storm goal, the puck bounced off the end boards right to Shane Fraser who popped home his 13th of the year to open the scoring.
Miller would double up the lead minutes later off a give and go with Brandon Ralph. The goal was Miller’s 8th of the year and team leading 6th on the powerplay.
The Storm (12-35-6) would get one back at 14:08 when Dallas Comeau spun and fired a shot towards the MOB goal that was deflected by Connor Blake past Eric Szudor.
The goal would be the lone shot to beat Szudor as he kicked out 15 of 16 shots fired his way in picking up his 22nd win.
The Barons struck twice in the second period in a span of 22 seconds. The first was a brilliant rush up ice by defenceman Curtis Roach as he danced around the Storm defence before beating Arik Weersink up high for his 10th goal of the year.
Ralph would make it 4-1 when he cut in to the middle of the ice from the right wing and ripped a shot past Weersink for his 21st goal of the year.
The Barons shutdown the Storm from there, allowing just three shots in the third period en route to sweeping the six game season series. The MOB outscored the Storm 34-4 in the six games.
“Structurally we were good,” said Keca. “We didn’t give up a ton especially in the third period. We warned our guys about odd man rushes and them trying to stretch us out so I thought we were fairly decent.”
Defenceman JC Thivierge returned to the blueline after missing the last 8 games after having hernia surgery three weeks ago.
“We asked him continually throughout the game how he was feeling and he felt okay he said. After warm-up he said it feels a little weird being out there but no signs of a nagging injury which was good,” said Keca when asked of the defenceman’s status.
The MOB’s climb back into first place in the North is largely due to the fact the team has registered at least a point in 15 straight games. The MOB are 13-0-2 during the stretch and have not lost in regulation since December 18th.
“It’s all on the players. It’s the leadership that we have, it’s the willingness to put in the time and effort in practices and transfer that knowledge in games and for us to go 15 games and get points is a testament to the guys in that room,” said Keca.
The MOB will take on the Wolverines Sunday afternoon with puck drop scheduled for 2:30 p.m.