The same day as he was named the AJHL’s player of the month for February, Will Conley continued his strong play into the first game of March, scoring a pair of goals and assisting on the overtime winner as the Fort McMurray Oil Barons downed the Whitecourt Wolverines 4-3 Friday night.
After scoring 11 goals and 21 points in 12 games, Conley received the monthly award and picked up right where he left off as he notched his 13th multi-goal game of the season and it still amazes everyone that he does not have a hat-trick. Back to back games Conley has had a chance to complete the trick, only to be foiled by the Wolverines netminder. In overtime Conley received a pass from JC Thivierge at his own blue line and stormed up the ice. He deked to the backhand and was stopped by Xavier Potvin but Coy Prevost followed up on the play and pushed the puck across the goal line for the game winner.
The two teams were meeting for the third of four meetings to end the season. With playoff positioning already decided, the teams were looking for strong play heading into the post season but more importantly neither coaching staff wanted to see any injuries.
The Wolverines (33-19-7) jumped on the MOB (41-13-5) early when Tyr Thompson intercepted the puck at the MOB blue line and fed Liam Motley who roofed a backhand past Eric Szudor 1:44 into the game.
The lead was short lived as Conley tied the game 1-1 on a MOB powerplay less than two minutes later. Merritt Oszytko got the puck to Curtis Roach in the slot. Roach threw a behind the back pass to Conley who ripped a shot into the top corner for his 46th goal of the year.
After the Wolverines restored their lead in the second off a rebound goal from Hayden Clayton, the MOB managed to respond quickly and once again tie the game. Reed Morison’s initial shot sailed over the goal but bounced off the end glass back in front. Morison found the puck and rifled a shot under the crossbar for his 26th goal. Morison had found himself in a goal scoring slump of late, one goal in his last 10 games but Head Coach Tom Keca says the 19 year old does so much more than just provide offence.
“What sets Morison up differently from some of the other guys that we have on our team is he finds other ways to contribute. He’s good on the penalty kill and he gets pucks down and he looks to set other guys up,” said Keca.
The MOB’s top line would give them their first lead of the game when Oszytko and Shane Fraser set up Conley who walked out from behind the goal and chipped a shot past Potvin. The goal gave Conley 47 on the season with one game remaining and a chance to hit 50. Spruce Grove’s Chris Van Os-Shaw became the first player to score 50 goals in a season with two goals Friday night since Mark Letestu did it with the Bonnyville Pontiacs back in the 2005-06 season.
The Wolverines tied the game 3-3 at 10:57 of the third period when Ben Evanish beat the out stretched pad of Szudor on a wrap around to notch his team leading 32nd goal. Szudor made two spectacular saves late in the third period after the MOB had two horrendous giveaways in front of their own goal. Szudor robbed Evanish and then sprawled out to deny Spencer Bast with his left pad.
The two teams will finish up the regular season Saturday night when they meet for a fourth straight time and sixth and final time this season. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. at the Casman Centre. Also during the game the Oil Barons Dream Home winner will be announced.
The AJHL handed out their award winners and captain Shane Fraser was named the league’s Most Dedicated Player. Fraser has had a career year in his third season in the league recording a career high 20 goals and 52 points in 58 games played.
“Shane is such a quality person and him coming here three years ago and watching him develop and mature the way he has and he’s a guy that when he leaves our program you can really say that not only did he make our team better by his play on the ice but he made our program better as a whole with his off ice involvement,” said Keca of his captain.
Fraser played in his 150 career game Friday night and sits at 98 career points with one game remaining.
“It’s one of the hardest awards to vote for because I can’t really comment how dedicated somebody else is, all I know is how dedicated Shane Fraser is and he’s very well deserving. He’s a great kid and we’re hoping that he secures some form of scholarship whether it’s CIS or NCAA,” said Keca. “Just a quality farm boy kid that’s tough and plays in all situations and he’s just somebody that you want to be around and he’s got that magnetic personality and we’re really happy for him.”
Written by: Taylor Pope, mymcmurray.com.
Photo by: Dan Lines