It may have been the strangest game winning goal any hockey fan has ever seen but the Fort McMurray Oil Barons will take it none the less as they skated away with a 4-3 win in Game 3 against the Bonnyville Pontiacs Tuesday night to take a 2-1 series lead.
Tied 3-3 in the third period, the MOB broke out of their zone. Liam Izyk fired a hard pass up ice to Jarred White who was skating through centre ice. White deflected the puck and it went straight up in the air and sailed over the shoulder of Pontiac goaltender Sandro Silvestre and into the net, leaving the crowd in disbelief of what they just saw.
“I’ve seen a lot of game winning goals, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one like that,” said MOB head coach Tom Keca on the bizarre game winning goal. “It just goes to show you that there’s no such thing as a bad shot and when you get pucks to the net and when you get traffic, anything can happen.”
The goal was White’s first of the post season and capped off a third period come from behind win for the MOB.
“I truly believed we were the better team five on five and deserved to win the hockey game so the outcome was just. You have to be lucky to be good or good to be lucky,” said Keca.
The Barons found themselves trailing for the first time in the series when Alden Dupuis opened the scoring for the Pontiacs 2:19 into the first period on an early powerplay. Brandon Whistle, playing in his first game since February 14th, found a streaking Dupuis who busted towards the MOB net before snapping a shot past Eric Szudor.
The Barons didn’t let the early goal deflate them as they had several good shifts in a row after the goal and were able to tie the game at the 7:52 mark. Good pressure down low created a turnover in the Pontiac end. The puck came to Stefan Wood at the point, he fired a shot on goal and the rebound popped out to Will Conley who buried his 2nd goal of the playoffs to make it 1-1.
The Barons would take the lead in the second period when Brandon Ralph’s pass hit a body and ended up right back on his stick. The captain walked into the slot and beat Silvestre on the backhand for his third goal in two games.
Penalty trouble would cost the MOB later in the period as Dupuis scored his second of the game on a five on three powerplay before restoring Bonnyville’s lead six minutes later when he one timed a shot past Szudor for his hat-trick goal and third powerplay goal of the game. After going 0-7 on the powerplay in games one and two, the Pontiacs went 3-5 with the man-advantage Tuesday.
Trailing heading into the third period, the Barons were able to find another gear. Dominating play and outshooting the Pontiacs 13-6 in the frame and 34-22 overall.
The Barons tied the game 4:42 into the period after some good cycling behind the Pontiac goal. White was able to pass the puck out front to an open Nicholas Leeseberg but he fanned on his shot. Luckily, the puck slid off his blade and right to a pinching Nicholas Nietubyc who hammered home his first career playoff goal.
“I don’t know whether he got lost and maybe thought that was our end and he was maybe still caught in the second period so he raced up,” said Keca with a laugh as he joked about Nietubyc jumping into the play.
The goal was the third in the series by a MOB defenceman and just the third all year by the Texan.
The MOB then took the lead off White’s strange deflection with 7:52 left in the third period. The Barons grinded out the remaining time on the clock, winning several key face-offs late and not allowing the Pontiacs to create many scoring chances.
“We talk about momentum swinging throughout a seven game series and right now we have a little bit of momentum but it doesn’t count for anything tomorrow,” said Keca.
The series continues Wednesday night at the RJ Lalonde Arena in Bonnyville for Game 4. Pre-game show begins at 7:15 p.m.on Country 93.3 with Taylor Pope.
Written by: Taylor Pope, mymcmurray.com.
Photographer: Dan Lines