If Game 1 is any indication, the opening round playoff series between the Fort McMurray Oil Barons and Whitecourt Wolverines promises to be an exciting, closely contested matchup. The first game of the series ended up needing extra time, and Wolverines forward Garin Butler proved to be the hero, scoring off a feed by Brayden Labant to give Whitecourt a hard-earned 2-1 win.
The opening period saw both teams battling to carry the play, and plenty of back and forth action. Evan Fradette made a highlight-reel save midway through the period, stretching across the net and just getting his skate against the post to keep the puck out of the back of the net. Fradette was rock solid all night, and made a number of big saves to keep his team in the game. There were two penalties called in the first, both against the MOB – Max Struss took a kneeing call, and Kyle Brown sat for a hook. The Barons killed off both penalties. The first period ended scoreless for both teams.
The second saw both teams pick up where they left off, trading offensive zone time and looking to score the game’s first goal. It was Joshua Corrow who would open the scoring with an absolute blast from the point that beat a screened Fradette and give the Wolverines a 1-0 lead. The Barons would turn it up as the period went on, and Whitecourt netminder Vincent Duplessis who would shine, coming up with crucial saves of his own to hold on to the lead. The MOB would get their own chances on the powerplay. Bryce Osephcuk took a hooking call midway through the period, and then Zachary Cox was given a 5 minute major and a game misconduct after crumpling Ethan Jamernik into the boards from behind. The MOB could not find a way to beat Duplessis, and Whitecourt would carry the 1-0 lead into the second intermission.
Whitecourt entered shutdown mode to begin the third, and did a good job of keeping the Barons hemmed in their own zone. Max Struss took an early hooking penalty, but the MOB’s penalty kill remained perfect for the evening. Luke Harvie and Ethan Green would receive match roughing calls after the whistle midway through the frame. Minutes later, Michael Hodge would take a feed from Hunter Lamb and snap a shot through the legs of Duplessis to tie the game up. Regulation would solve nothing, and the game would head into overtime.
Overtime would prove to be short-lived, as a costly turnover by the Barons off the breakout was quickly turned back the other way by Labant. He would swing behind the net and throw the puck out front into a mass of players, where the puck would deflect off Butler and past Fradette.
It was a tough loss for the Barons, who at times carried the play and looked like the better team. Their penalty kill was perfect for the evening, and they did a great job of limiting scoring chances against. Final shots for the game were 27-27. The story of the night was the goaltending of both teams, as Fradette and Duplessis each made multiple acrobatic saves at critical moments. It will be a quick turnaround, with Game 2 taking place tonight in Whitecourt. Puck-drop is at 7:30, the pregame show begins at 7:15 on Country 93.3.