Barons back in the win column, shutting out Mustangs 4-0

CALGARY, AB (October 27, 2013) — Jetlan Houcher (Paradise Valley, AB) scored two goals in a 42 second span, while Jesse Gordichuk (Penticton, BC) stopped all 27 shots he faced for his second career shutout, as the Fort McMurray Oil Barons (18-1-2) downed the Calgary Mustangs 4-0 on Sunday evening.

“Overall, a pretty strong effort,” said head coach Gord Thibodeau. “Very pleased with our energy, and pleased with our offence. We generated around 20 scoring chances, which is what we want to see. Even on a short weekend, when you're fatigued, we still found a way to attack, so that's a positive.”

A furious first period saw the MOB get off to an 11-6 shot lead, but remain deadlocked with the Mustangs until the final minute of the frame. With 40 seconds left, Austin Yadlowski (Edmonton, AB) beat two Mustang defenders at neutral ice, and slipped a pass into the Calgary zone where Brennan Saulnier (Halifax, NS) snuck behind the defence, and tucked a breakaway backhand shot past goaltender Ravi Dattani to give the MOB the early lead.

“The biggest thing we've found so far with Brennan is just, don't give him an empty net, because he struggles at putting those in,” joked Thibodeau, referring to earlier chances Saulnier had generated on the weekend, “but he did a great job again – he had two glorious chances before he buried the breakaway. It's good to see. I think for him it's just a weight off his shoulders.”

In the second, the Barons came out flying thanks to their first power play chance just over a minute in. Just eight seconds into the man advantage, Adam Durkee (Lafayette, CO) fed a pass from the left-wing circle to Houcher in the slot, whose one-timer rocketed into the top-right corner of the Mustang net to double the MOB lead.

Just 42 seconds later, a 3-on-2 rush for the Barons resulted in Hayden Dawes (Stony Plain, AB) feathering a pass through the Calgary crease to Houcher along the left side, who jammed the puck into a yawning cage to make it 3-0.

For Houcher, the three-goal weekend performance further cemented his case as a wrongly omitted invitee to Team Canada West's selection camp for this year's World Junior A Challenge.

“We felt badly for Jetlan also; we felt that he should've gotten an invite,” said Thibodeau. “But sometimes people fall in love with skating and speed and they forget that it's the end result that matters, and when a kid continues to score, there's a reason why; he's smart enough to put himself in position. The kid has scored at every level that he's played at, so it's nice to see him doing that, and I'm hoping that schools are going to take notice of that.”

Just a few minutes later, at the 4:42 mark, Danton Ayotte (Wetaskiwin, AB) beat Dattani with a wrist shot from the slot for his ninth goal of his rookie season, and second in the past two games.

The Mustangs controlled the third with an official 11-4 shot count, but Gordichuk stood tall, turning all of the pucks aside to register the clean sheet and lower his goals against average to a league-leading 1.00.

“He just doesn't give up a lot of rebounds, he plays big in the net; the one thing with Jesse is, he's competing on pucks, he's fighting through screens,” said Thibodeau. “I think he's a goaltender that's got a lot of promise and obviously it's tough to keep a shutout string going, but he's battling, and he's trying to find ways to do that every night; let's hope it continues for quite a while.”

The Barons now have more than a week off before they return Friday, November 8th to take on the Olds Grizzlys at the Casman Centre.

“It's been a tough 21 games,” said Thibodeau. “We want to get some rest, we're going to have a short week at practice, probably three days at practice, and then the boys will have three full days off where they'll get to go home and get to see their families a little bit – we'll regroup in a week's time and get back to work, and get ourselves prepared.”

Puck drop for that game is at 8:00 PM with pre-game coverage starting at 7:45 on Country 93.3.

Country 93.3 3 stars:
1. Jesse Gordichuk (27 save shutout)
2. Jetlan Houcher (2 goals)
3. Brennan Saulnier (1 goal, 1 assist)