The Fort McMurray Oil Barons and Santas Anonymous teamed up Friday night at the Casman Centre as the annual teddy bear toss commenced. Nearly 1600 fans packed the house with a stuffed animal in hand and watched the MOB defeat the Drayton Valley Thunder 6-3.
The fans were itching to get the bears over the boards when the MOB had two great chances in the opening minutes but were unable to find twine. It would take until the 18:43 mark of the period for Ryan Cox to beat Joseph McLeod on a powerplay with a low hard shot to send the bears raining down.
“It was an outstanding job by everyone at Father Mercredi. It was getting a little tense, I know it happened still in the first period but for all those kids to come out and to see all those teddy bears fly down on the ice it was great,” said Oil Barons head coach Tom Keca.
The teddy bears will be put in hampers and distributed to families and children in need this holiday season. Santas Anonymous has been an integral part of the Wood Buffalo Region for over 30 years. The staff and students of Father Mercredi High School work hard every holiday season to make sure every family has a happy Christmas.
“This community continues to amaze anybody that’s here because the support that they get and this Santas Anonymous group did an outstanding job and kudos to all the fans that came and brought a teddy bear to ensure that as many people can have an enjoyable Christmas this year,” said Keca.
The Barons (19-4-1) powerplay would lead the charge on this night, scoring on five of seven opportunities. Taner Miller and Hayden Ursulak would score 28 seconds apart in the opening minute of the second period to open up a 3-0 lead for the MOB.
Max Salpeter got the Thunder (4-15-4) on the board at 10:52 but Cox responded with his second powerplay goal of the game five minutes later to restore the Barons three goal lead.
The Thunder came into the game after picking up just their fourth win of the year Thursday night and were looking to stay in the win column. The Thunder capitalized on two defensive zone turnovers by the MOB and quickly cut the lead to one 3:17 into the third on goals from Anthony Orubor and Rhett Willcox.
With all the momentum on their side, the Thunder spelled their own fate when Levi Johnson took a seven minute penalty for jumping Jack Hamly. The MOB used the powerplay to add to their lead. Miller would blast a shot past McLeod for his second of the game and fifth of the year. The two goals for Miller snapped an 18 game goalless drought.
Will Conley would add an empty netter late to give the MOB their fifth straight win. Conley has five goals and 11 points in his last five games.
The two teams will meet again Saturday night at the Casman Centre. Pre-game show starts at 7:45p.m. on Country 93.3 with Taylor Pope.
After getting hit hard by the injury bug in recent weeks, the Oil Barons iced a fully healthy lineup Friday night. Jackson McKinstry returned after missing 21 games with a shoulder injury. The overager picked up an assist in the win.
“The versatility of Jackson (McKinstry) is going to be crucial for us moving forward,” said Keca on the 20 year old getting back in the lineup. “You have to feel for him because he’s a 20 year old, this is his last year and we have a fairly good team and he wants to be part of it and he’s been hurt since the first weekend.”
Also back on the blueline were Jayden Pannu who missed 8 games, Jordan Steenbergen 5 games and JC Thivierge 3 games. The Oil Barons continue to carry 25 players on their roster and must get that number down by December 1st which means there will be some very tough decisions for the coaching staff.
“We can’t keep this many guys so December 1st is an important date for us. We only get so many cards. Unfortunately this group will not be as big as it is right now and that’s unfortunate because we’ve got some great guys,” said Keca on his 25 man roster.
Written by: Taylor Pope, mycmurray.com.
Photographer: Dan Lines