BONNYVILLE, AB (November 15, 2013) — Kevin Miller (Stony Plain, AB) opened the scoring just 24 seconds into the game, and the Fort McMurray Oil Barons (21-1-2) never trailed thereafter, downing the Bonnyville Pontiacs (10-13-3) 5-1 on the road Friday night.
Tanner Jaillet (Red Deer, AB) stopped 19 of 20 shots, while Austin Yadlowski (Edmonton, AB) scored two goals to match his total from last season with four.
“I thought we did a real good job of hounding the puck on the forecheck and through neutral ice,” said head coach Gord Thibodeau. “We didn't give them a lot of time to set up any concerted rush, and even defensively we did a pretty good job up until the last six minutes or so.”
Alex Cromwell (McKinney, TX) got the opening scoring going by chipping the puck behind the Pontiac net on the opening shift. Linemate and team captain Jetlan Houcher (Paradise Valley, AB) chased it down, and quickly centred to a wide open Miller, whose top shelf shot from the right hashmarks beat starting Pontiac netminder Stephen Klein for the 1-0 lead.
Eight minutes and a second later, a scramble in front of the Pontiac net resulted in a puck rolling to the blue line, where Yadlowski stepped into a slapshot that beat Klein through traffic for the former Drayton Valley Thunder's first of the game, and a 2-0 Barons lead that forced Pontiac coach Rick Swan to pull his goalie in favour of backup Josh Erickson.
“We handled it very well early,” said Thibodeau of his team's offensive play in Bonnyville's small neutral zone. “They were in a 1-2-2 early, and we attacked it with a lot of speed, and you could see them kind of backing up and giving up the line after the first period, and that just helps out forwards even more.”
He wouldn't fare particularly better, however, as a long wrist shot by Kaiden Tobin (Stony Plain, AB) from the right-wing halfboards early in the second period found the back of the Pontiac net to extend the lead to 3-0.
In the third period, Yadlowski scored one of the nicest goals of the season for Fort McMurray, taking the puck at the left point, skating across the blueline, charging down the right wing boards and behind the net, before finally swinging a perfect wraparound shot inside the left post of the Pontiac net to make it 4-0 MOB.
“We've said before, his patience with the puck is outstanding; most guys would have shot that three times,” said Thibodeau. “He kept faking, dropping that shoulder, and got not only their defencemen to bite, but got the goaltender to bite on the fake.”
“I told him – Hall of Fame type goal – when he came to the bench. You don't see too many of those.”
Bonnyville broke Jaillet's shutout bid just over halfway through the third, when Dan Wedman converted on a net front scramble at 11:43.
But just under 4 minutes later, Mitch Byrne (Onaping, ON) centred a pass from the right-wing corner to linemate Mitch Vanderlaan (Hanwell, NB), whose backhand deflection beat Erickson to restore a 4-goal lead, which would be the final.
The team will now have a tall task in the form of a Saturday night road game against the Sherwood Park Crusaders, who snapped the Spruce Grove Saints' 16-game win streak with a 3-1 victory tonight.
“It's a late night for us getting in, so rest is key, hydration is key, and there's no advantage; both teams are going to be fatigued [with their] second game in two nights,” Thibodeau observed. “Obviously, they're in their own beds, so we want to make sure we come out with the same type of jump tomorrow that we did tonight.”
Puck drop is at 7 PM with pre-game coverage starting at 6:45 PM on Country 93.3.
Country 93.3 3 stars:
1. Austin Yadlowski (2 goals)
2. Tanner Jaillet (19 saves, 20 shots)
3. Kevin Miller (1 goal)