There can be many ups and downs throughout an Alberta Junior Hockey League season.
The Fort McMurray Oil Barons are certainly on an up to start the 2017-18 season as the team sits in first place in the North Division after two weeks with a 4-0-0 record.
After thumping the Lloydminster Bobcats 7-1 Friday night, Saturday’s game was a much closer affair as the MOB inched out a 2-1 win at the Casman Centre.
Despite being undefeated after a pair of wins over the Grande Prairie Storm and Lloydminster Bobcats, Head Coach Tom Keca knows his team must be better if they are to win the games that really matter at the end of the season.
“These are not the types of efforts that we can have moving forward,” said Keca. “We get that it’s September and it’s tough and it’s even more frustrating sometimes as a coaching staff when you have those types of efforts and you still win because guys fall into that false sense of security that we played well and nothing could be further from the truth tonight.”
The Bobcats came out of the gate looking like a much different team than the previous night. Looking to snap a three game slide, the Bobcats pressed early and forced MOB goaltender Chris Curr to make several saves in the game’s opening minutes.
“As a coach I can put up with a lot of things but I can’t put up with a lack of intelligence because I can’t fix that there’s not enough practice time and I can’t put up with a lack of a willingness to compete,” said Keca on his team’s effort level.
The MOB would open the scoring by capitalizing on an offensive zone turnover by the Bobcats at the 11:06 mark of the first period. Will Conley intercepted a pass in his own zone and broke up ice with Owen Reith. Conley hit Reith in stride and then took off towards the Bobcats goal. Reith laid a pass back to Conley who blew past the defenceman and made a quick move around Reece Klassen to score his fourth goal in three games.
Lloydminster would tie the game mid-way through the second period on a point shot from Andrew McCann that hit a pair of players in the slot and deflected up over the glove hand of Curr. The goal was credited to Rob Johnson who appeared to get the shaft of his stick on the puck.
The MOB restored their lead late in the frame when Ryan Cox finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play. Reed Morison found Jake Berry flying down the left wing as the defenceman joined the rush. Berry then fed Cox driving the goal and he tapped home his third goal of the season.
The third period saw Klassen steal the show as he made several highlight reel saves to keep his team in the game. The first came with 8:08 left on the clock when he robbed Will Conley on a breakaway. A couple minutes later it was Klassen stoning Cox in the slot with the blocker arm.
A late flurry from the Bobcats was to little too late as Curr shut the door picking up his first win of the season in his first start.
“Technically he’s very sound, he’s very good on his angles and he controls his rebounds,” said Keca of Curr. “He doesn’t exude any extra energy then what he has to.”
Next up for the MOB is the AJHL Showcase in Camrose. The MOB will take on the Calgary Canucks Friday night before battling the hometown Kodiaks on Saturday.
“We’ve got the bulls eye firmly planted on our chest and we’re going to have a battle every single night. The great thing about the Alberta Junior Hockey League is the parity where if you take a night off anyone can beat you and we got very fortunate today to come away with a win,” said Keca.
Head Coach Tom Keca on the Country 93.3 Post-Game Show
MOB forward Jarred White missed both games over the weekend as he nurses an upper body injury. Defenceman Noah Kallichuk continues to mend an injured foot while JC Thivierge sat out with a lower body injury after taking a hard check into the boards Friday night.The Bobcats Andrew Liwiski was handed a two game suspension for boarding on the play. Will Conley, Liam Izyk, Reed Morison and Ryan Cox lead the MOB with five points apiece through four games this season.