GRANDE PRAIRIE, AB (February 17, 2013) — The Fort McMurray Oil Barons scored 3 consecutive goals to come back from a 3-1 deficit, but allowed a tying goal with 1:29 left and fell less than a minute into overtime to the Grande Prairie Storm, 5-4, on Sunday night.
“We made some bad decisions today,” said head coach Gord Thibodeau. “That resulted in three or four of the five goals. We’ve been on our guys about the fact that you can’t be turning pucks over, and we did that today and it cost us.”
A turnover at the side of the MOB net resulted in the first Storm goal just 37 seconds in, when Adam Boytinck converted on a rebound after an initial save by Tanner Jaillet (Red Deer, AB).
The Storm doubled their lead a few minutes later on their first and only power-play of the night, when Mike Forsyth tipped a Sasha Larocque point shot past Jaillet to make it 2-0.
The Barons responded just before the halfway mark of the period when Justin Fraser (Hussar, AB) banked home a rebound generated by a Taylor Graham (Calgary, AB) shot from the halfboards – the first blemish on the record of Storm goaltender Nick Kulmanovsky. But the Storm reclaimed the two-goal margin in the second when Tanner Labbe converted a goal-mouth scramble to make it 3-1.
That set the stage for three consecutive goals from the line of Fraser, Hayden Dawes (Stony Plain, AB), and Jetlan Houcher (Paradise Valley, AB).
First, Houcher brought the team to within 1 before the end of the second, when Fraser found him alone in the slot for a forehand goal and a 3-2 deficit.
The Barons started the third period on the power-play and converted only 36 seconds in, when Houcher fed a pass through the crease for a backdoor goal by Dawes to knot the game at 3-3.
On a subsequent power-play, Dawes fired a shot from just inside the blue line on Kulmanovksy, but a juicy rebound popped loose to Houcher at the side of the net, which he jammed home for his second of the night, and tenth as a Baron, to give the MOB its first lead of the game.
“I can't say I'm surprised,” said Thibodeau of his team's tenacity. “They've shown us that earlier in the year, and shown us that specifically in the last 15-20 games, so I had a feeling that we were going to try to claw back. The big goal on the powerplay to start the third definitely helped.”
It was then time for the Storm to play catchup, as they called a timeout with 1:31 left and pulled Kulmanovsky for an extra attacker. Mike Forsyth then won the ensuing face-off to Ryan Matthews, who one-timed a shot from the high slot off the crossbar and in to knot the game up.
“Seems like the bounces were against us a little bit,” said Thibodeau. “But, a good job of coming back, lost a clean draw, and that’s usually what hurts you.”
Late pressure by the Storm was fended off in the dying seconds by the Barons to at least get the game to overtime, where Fort McMurray couldn't muster a single shot on goal.
Instead, just under a minute in, it was Matthews again, this time feathering a pass through the MOB slot to a wide-open Scott Milnthorp for a one-time game-winner.
Despite the loss, the Barons take 5 of a possible 6 points on the road trip and move into sole possession of second place in the AJHL North.
“We maybe deserved a better fate,” said Thibodeau. “I thought we had a lot of scoring chances, especially in the third period, maybe if we'd gotten that fifth one, we would've been able to hang on, but – long weekend, and five out of six ain't bad.”
They're back in action Wednesday night hosting the Lloydminster Bobcats at 7:30 in a rescheduled game.
Country 93.3 3 stars:
1. Ryan Matthews (1 goal, 1 assist)
2. Justin Fraser (1 goal, 3 assists)
3. Jetlan Houcher (2 goals, 1 assist)