The Fort McMurray Oil Barons have hung tough all series with the Whitecourt Wolverines but have come up just short in three straight games.
The MOB fell 3-2 in Game 3 of their first round series to put them on the brink of elimination as the Wolverines now lead the best of seven series 3 game to none.
“It’s a tough one for sure,” said MOB Head Coach Gord Thibodeau on the loss. “You come back home and want to get yourself back in the series, game 3 is key and our effort was good tonight but our intelligence wasn’t.”
Wednesday night at the Casman Centre, the teams traded chances in the first period but neither team could find the game’s opening goal.
Both teams lost a defenceman in the first period when Kabore Dunn was hit in the face with the puck. The MOB defender left the game and did not return. The Wolverines played the final two periods without their captain after Adam Sandstrom was issued a game misconduct for a check from behind on MOB forward Brendan Stafford late in the period.
Through the first seven periods of the series, the MOB had yet to hold a lead but that ended 3:52 into the second period when Hunter Leslie one-timed an Ethan Jones pass through the five-hole of Vincent Duplessis to give the MOB a 1-0 lead.
With the building buzzing, the Wolverines quickly silenced the crowd when Tyler Mahan tied the game 1:08 later as the MOB lead was short lived.
The game remained tied until the MOB got into penalty trouble early in the third period. With the Wolverines on a five-on-three advantage, Bryce Osepchuk buried a cross crease feed from Ryan Wallz to give the Wolverines the 2-1 lead.
“We’ve been undisciplined all year and we were again tonight and when you give teams power play opportunities especially in playoffs it’s tough. We had our own opportunities but we refused to shoot the puck and it’s tough to score when you don’t shoot the puck,” said Thibodeau. The Wolverines went 1/6 on the power play while the MOB were 1/8 in the game.
The Wolverines would go up 3-1 shortly after when Sam Andersen scored off the rush. Wallz drew the assist, his third point of the game.
The Wolverines gave the Oil Barons a chance to get back in the game when they took back to back penalties late in the third period. The MOB pulled Evan Fradette to give them a six-on-three advantage. Tyler Wallace found Michael Hodge in tight and he roofed a shot past Duplessis to cut the deficit to one with 37 seconds remaining.
However, that was as close as the MOB would get as Duplessis shut the door making 34 saves to put the MOB’s season on the line in Game 4 on Thursday night.
“We hit three crossbars tonight and we got some traffic to the net and rebounds were there but we didn’t win the battles in front and when you run into a hot goaltender you have to win the net front battles and it’s something we haven’t done in the series,” said Thibodeau of the chances his team has created.
Puck drop for Game 4 is 7:30 p.m. at the Casman Centre as the MOB look to force a fifth game back in Whitecourt on Saturday.
“We’ve dug ourselves into a bit of a hole obviously but you play one game at a time and you don’t look forward. All we’re trying to do is play (Thursday) so we can play one more game and we’ll come out with a strong effort and at the end of the game we’ll look up at the scoreboard and see if we get another chance.”