Opening weekend saw the Oil Barons earn a split against the Sherwood Park Crusaders and Spruce Grove Saints. On opening night, the blue and gold fell 5-2 to the Crusaders, in a game where they were outplayed throughout the entire night. Rylan Ringor and Carter Schmidt both scored power-play markers, while Gabe Gratton made 28 saves in the loss.
Sherwood Park opened the scoring late in the first period. A one-timer from Ryan Zaremba was turned aside by Gratton, only for the rebound to land perfectly for Noah Wills who tapped home the ice breaker. The Crusaders increased their lead in the opening minute of the second period with a power-play marker. Zaremba picked up the puck at the Oil Barons blue line, and while his original shot was stopped, Gratton couldn’t reel in the rebound, making it 2-0 Sherwood Park. The Oil Barons cut into Sherwood Park’s lead with a power-play goal of their own. On a scrambly play, Demitri DiFlorio picked out a wide open Ringor, who made no mistake with an open net. The Crusaders answered back with a pair of goals to finish the second period. After a stellar save by Gratton, Wills scooped up a loose puck at the side of the net, tucking it home for his second of the game. Then Logan Hauer made it 4-1 Crusaders, on a breakaway with 0.7 seconds left to go in the third period. Fort McMurray made it a game early in the third period. On the power-play, Evan Arnold sent a cross seam pass to the slot, where Schmidt picked it up and wired his shot past Erick Roest. The Crusaders put a bow on their home opener with another power-play goal of their own. Brock Souch found himself wide open in front of Gratton, where he out-waited the Oil Barons netminder, tucking it around his pad for the 5-2 marker.
Fort McMurray rebounded in a big way the next night. For the first time since March 3rd, 2019, the Oil Barons marched out of Grant Fuhr Arena with two points, snapping Spruce Grove’s 38 game unbeaten streak in regulation at home.
Spruce Grove opened the scoring early in the first period. The former Oil Baron, Ryder Matter, snapped home a bouncing puck that fooled Gratton, making it 1-0. But the MOB responded. Liam Rodman released a shot from the right point that hit a number of skates, surprising Ryan De Kok, tying the game at one. The Oil Barons then earned their first lead of the season. While down a man, a point shot from Rodman hit a Saint in front of goal, and the ricochet landed perfectly for Evan Arnold, who tapped home the puck to make it 2-1. Spruce Grove knotted things up at two before the end of the first period. With 3 seconds remaining, a point shot from Hunter Brown hit Gratton, bounced off a defenceman, before pinballing into the cage. A power-play goal in the second period saw the Saints gain a 3-2 lead. Carter Oakenfold was driving towards the goal and his centering pass hit the skate of an Oil Baron, sliding past Gratton for a go away marker. Back came the Oil Barons. Duncan Shin forced a turnover in behind the Saints net, feeding Ty Sauer in the slot. Sauer’s shot was stopped, but De Kok slipped the rebound and Nik Hoogendoorn pushed home the rebound, tying the game at three. The Oil Barons then found another lead they would not relinquish. Brett Boucher forced a Saints turnover, spun and found Keefe Gruener wide open in the slot, where the captain snapped home his first goal of the season, giving Fort McMurray a 4-3 lead. Gabe Gratton was amazing in goal for Fort McMurray making 43 saves in the victory, including a highlight reel stop on Ashton Hutchinson with less than five minutes to go in the third period.
The Oil Barons wrap up their three game road trip on Tuesday night, when they head to Bonnyville to face the 1-1 Pontiacs. You can catch all the action on Home Hardware’s Oil Barons Hockey on the MOB Radio Network, with puck drop at 7pm from RJ Lalonde Arena.