Scouts from all across North America finally got the chance to see what all the hype was about regarding this year’s Fort McMurray Oil Barons team Friday night.
After a few teams had already completed their two games at the annual Alberta Junior Hockey League Showcase in Camrose, the MOB took to the ice for the first time in the late game against the Calgary Canucks and came away with a 5-3 win.
The win might not have been the prettiest but it did keep the Barons undefeated at 5-0-0 and extended the Canucks (2-4-0) losing skid to four games.
The Barons came out hard in the first period, opening the scoring 2:27 in. Luke Harvie and Trevor Schroder worked the puck up along the half wall and got it to Lucas Yovetich at the right point. Yovetich’s shot was deflected at the side of the goal by Jackson Verstraete up and over the glove of Canucks goalie Pierce Diamond for his first career AJHL goal.
Instead of sparking the MOB bench, it seemed the goal jumped started the Canucks who carried the play for the next few shifts, leading to a powerplay. A mad scramble in front of Eric Szudor left the MOB goalie flopping all over the ice making save after save until Dylan Williamson beat him to tie the game. Williamson has scored in all six games so far this season and leads the league with nine goals.
The Barons would regain the lead on a powerplay of their own at 16:44 of the first period. Jack Hamly won a face-off straight back to Taner Miller who quickly fired a shot on goal. The rebound popped right to Hamly who deposited his 2nd goal of the year to give the MOB a 2-1 lead after one period.
The momentum from the late goal continued into the second period when Shane Fraser completed a four pass passing play 50 seconds in. Fraser slid a shot past the outstretched pad of Diamond for his 3rd of the year.
“We’ve got speed with me and then (Owen) Reith he’s so skilled with the puck it’s insane and Shane (Fraser) he’s just a workhorse so it’s pretty easy to work with players who know how to play the game well,” said MOB forward Will Conley on the early chemistry with his new linemates.
The Canucks peppered Szudor with 21 shots in the frame but were unable to beat the 20 year old who picked up his fourth win of the season.
The Barons appeared to get the insurance goal they needed in the third period when Conley hammered in his team leading 5th of the season to give the MOB a 4-1 lead.
“Taner (Miller) just sent it off the end wall and it bounced straight up in the air and I just waited for it to drop and whacked at it hoping it was going to go where I wanted it to,” said Conley who has now scored in four straight games.
However, the Canucks were not giving up easily on this night. Head Coach Colin Birkas pulled his goalie while on a powerplay with over 11 minutes left to try and get a quick goal. The plan didn’t work but the Canucks did find a way to score two quick goals a few minutes later to cut the lead to 4-3.
Former Oil Baron Hayden Ursulak beat Szudor with a backhand deke on a breakaway before Tommy Tanner was allowed to walk in from the top of the circle and rip a shot short side on Szudor.
“Great kid, hard worker,” said Canucks Head Coach Colin Birkas of Ursulak. “We did our homework, we looked around the league and we wanted to add a little bit of bite and the price was right on Ursulak and I’m glad we did.”
The Barons survived another late flurry and Nicholas Leeseberg sealed the win with an empty netter with 12 seconds left. The Canucks outshot the MOB 50-38 in the game.
“We can’t let that happen ever again, that’s way too many,” said Conley on how busy Szudor was.
Next up for the MOB, they will take on the host Camrose Kodiaks at 7:00 p.m. Saturday night.