The Fort McMurray Oil Barons opened up their first round playoff series against the visiting Grande Prairie Storm Thursday night at the Casman Centre and after a quick strike to open the series, the MOB couldn’t match the Storm in Game 1 and fell 4-2.
“They didn’t have to battle very hard because we didn’t compete at all today. We talked to our players all week in prep that the series wasn’t going to be won or lost by tonight’s game but you wanted to set a foundation and have something to build on and we were very poor in all facets of the game,” said MOB Head Coach Tom Keca.
The Oil Barons had a perfect start to the game as they scored 48 seconds into the series when Kole Gable cut through the slot in the Storm’s zone. After he was tied up, the puck slid to Ty Ettinger who buried his first goal as an Oil Baron to give the Barons an early 1-0 lead.
From there, the Storm took over the period and scored three goals in a 6:26 span to open up a 3-1 lead through one.
Noah Corson, Zach Okabe and Connor Blake hooked up for a tick-tack-toe passing play to tie the game 1-1. Xavier Pouliot then gave the Storm the lead when his low hard point shot beat Chris Curr as a Storm powerplay was expiring.
The third goal came off a rebound as Curr made the save, the puck sat in the crease behind him. Curr dove at the puck and tried to swat it with his stick but it was just out of his reach and Zach Webb was there to knock it across the goal-line.
A five-on-three powerplay for the Oil Barons early in the second period allowed them to get back in the game. Liam Izyk found Jaedon Leslie cross-ice. His shot hit the post and went to Jarred White who was standing on the other side of the goal. White kicked the puck to his stick before hammering it home. White has scored a goal in eight of his last 11 games for the MOB.
Leslie had a chance to tie the game in the third period but the exact same thing happened as his shot clanked off the post when he was standing at the side of the goal. The Storm grabbed the puck and raced up ice and Blake was able to tuck a shot under the arm of Curr to give the Storm the insurance marker they needed as they skated away with the Game 1 win.
“To a man, whether it’s the goaltender, whether it’s the defence or the forwards, I don’t think there’s anybody in that room that can be happy with the effort that they put forward tonight,” said Keca.
Game 2 goes Friday night at the Casman Centre before the series will shift to Grande Prairie for Game 3 on Sunday. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Casman Centre box office. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
“Our players will look in the mirror and we’ll have to be better,” said Keca.
Prior to puck drop, two Oil Barons were recognized for league awards. Reed Morison was named the co-winner of the Viterra Cup alongside Okotoks Oilers forward Dylan Holloway. Morison received the Viterra AJHL Star of the Game selection 13 times in the regular season. Morison who led the AJHL in goals with 41 and finished third in points with 79 was selected as the Viterra AJHL Star of the Game seven times at home and six on the road.
Captain Taner Miller was also presented as the recipient of the 2019 Inter Pipeline AJHL Scholarship. Miller received a $1,500 scholarship as part of the Inter Pipeline AJHL Scholarship Program that rewards one current AJHL player with a scholarship towards their post-secondary education at the conclusion of each season. The scholarship is awarded to the player deemed most deserving among the sixteen applicants (one per AJHL team) based on their proven qualities in the areas of leadership, sportsmanship, dedication and citizenship.