The Fort McMurray Oil Barons and Whitecourt Wolverines have gotten to know each other quite well over the last three seasons. The two teams have met three straight years in the post-season and that comes after the six meetings against one another in the regular season each year.
Friday night saw the two North Division rivals face-off for the first time this season and it was another classic back and forth battle.
The MOB (11-7-5) took four different leads only to have the Wolverines (11-12-1) tie up the game each time. The teams battled all the way to the sixth round of the shootout before Brendan Stafford beat Tye Morin to give the MOB the 5-4 shootout win.
“Full credit to our players I thought we got off to an outstanding start, probably the best start that we’ve had in a very long time,” said MOB Head Coach Tom Keca. “There’s so many little things that we can build on and we’re going to have to.
The Barons stormed out of the gate and took the game to the Wolverines. The shots read 8-1 in favour of the MOB when Taner Miller opened the scoring 4:43 into the game with a point shot that deflected off the glove of Morin and into the net. Kole Gable picked up an assist on the goal to extend his assist streak to five games.
The Wolverines tied up the game at 14:25 when Joshua Corrow beat Chris Curr from the right point. The MOB responded quickly as two shifts after the goal, Chad MacLean busted out from the corner and was allowed to waltz right in front and slip the puck through the legs of Morin to put the MOB up 2-1 after the first period.
The Wolverines tied the game up 56 seconds into the second period when Mackenzie Harden pounced on a loose puck in the crease.
The back and forth battle continued when Nicholas McCarry sniped a shot off the cross bar and in from the right circle for his 4th goal of the year to put the MOB back in front 3-2.
The MOB would get a powerplay and look to add to their lead but it was the Wolverines who struck while short handed. Brayden Labant intercepted a Chris Curr pass and as the goaltender was trying to get back in his net, Labant beat him before he could get set.
The MOB didn’t let the goal get to them as they raced back up ice and 27 seconds later a quick give-and-go between Liam Izyk and Jack Hamly ended up in the back of the Wolverines net.
“It’s resiliency, it’s getting the goal scored on you but having the leadership that we have saying ‘okay listen let’s get right back on point,’ we had the man advantage and Liam Izyk does a great job just getting the puck to the net,” said Keca of Izyk’s goal his 5th of the year.
The third period saw the Barons completely shutdown the Wolverines as they sucked the life right out of the Scott Safety Centre nullifying any Wolverines rush up ice.
But with the goalie out, the Wolverines won a face-off in the MOB end and a Ryan Grant point shot hit a body and went right to Ben Evanish who tied the game with 25 seconds left in the third period. It was the only chance of the frame from the Wolverines but they made it count to tie the game 4-4 and force overtime.
“That was about as textbook as we could play a period, we didn’t give up anything,” said Keca. “We didn’t give up any free chances in front of the net, we forced them to the outside, we stepped up, we forced them to dump pucks, I was extremely happy with our third period.”
The Barons headed to overtime for a league leading 10th time this season and despite chances, neither team could end it. In the shootout, Liam Izyk and Jude Butler traded goals before Stafford ended it in the sixth round. Curr made five saves in the shootout for the MOB and 24 in the game to pick up his 10th win of the year.
The MOB continue their three game road trip in Grande Prairie on Saturday. Pre-game show is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. on Country 93.3 with Taylor Pope.
MOB Head Coach Tom Keca on the Country 93.3 post-game show.
Written by: Taylor Pope, mymcmurray.com
Photo by: Dan Lines