SPRUCE GROVE, AB (September 29, 2012) — Rookie forward Erik Pedersen (Calgary, AB) scored his first career goal to end a 126 minute, 28 second scoreless drought for the Fort McMurray Oil Barons (3-5) as they snapped a three-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory over the Okotoks Oilers (4-3-1) in Spruce Grove at the AJHL Showcase on Saturday night.
Pedersen fired a high wrist shot over the glove hand of goaltender Jared D'Amico (Chestermere, AB) on the 29th shot of the game for the Barons.
It came after 53 minutes and 11 seconds of scoreless hockey in the game that quickly became a clear goaltending battle between D'Amico and MOB netminder Tanner Jaillet.
The Barons, however, had held Okotoks to no shots in the first period of the game, outshooting them 13-0, and 21-10 through the first two periods.
The MOB didn't take long to double that initial lead, as Alex Cromwell (McKinney, TX) fired home a rebound from a Tyler Dea (St. Albert, AB) point shot 37 seconds after the first goal.
The goal came just seconds after Jaillet made a sprawling pad save on a perfectly played 2-on-1 rush from the Oilers.
The Oilers cut the deficit in half with just under 5 minutes to go in regulation when Chris Collins (Calgary, AB) converted on a breakaway, but the Barons held them off in the dying seconds to eke out the narrow win.
“It's a big relief,” admitted head coach Gord Thibodeau. “There's no question it's been a struggle, there's been a lot of frustration within the group.”
“It would've been frustrating if you didn't get the two points tonight after playing as well as we did.”
For both Cromwell and Pedersen, these were their first junior A goals.
“It's our eighth game, and every time we score a goal it seems like we're getting the puck, because it's a first goal,” Thibodeau said. “That shows you that we're not scoring many.”
Indeed, the Barons maintained a 2.00 goals for average, the lowest in the AJHL.
“You can't play much better than we did for the first 20, and even the first 40 was pretty strong,” the coach emphasized.
The MOB went 0-for-1 on the powerplay, but a perfect 2-for-2 on the penalty kill – the first game in which the shorthanded unit has not given up a goal.
“The key tonight – our D moved the puck,” Thibodeau said. “We had a few breakdowns, but when we did, Tanner Jaillet was pretty good.”
“The D understood that we can't get into a battle game – we have to get that puck moving, and use our forwards, and attack with some speed, and we did that.”
Thibodeau had high praise for the 17-year old Pedersen, who snapped the long goalless stretch for the team.
“Erik's been outstanding,” said Thibodeau. “He's been one of the surprises of our camp, and he's just getting better each and every day. We can see his growth at practice, and it's just a confidence thing with him, we keep telling him, quit looking to pass, and shoot the puck, because he can score goals.”
“Hopefully that's the start of many for him.”
The Barons hit the road next weekend in Lloydminster for two straight games on Friday and Saturday nights before ending the trip in Bonnyville for another Sunday matinee.