Crusaders squeak out win to put MOB on brink of elimination

For a second straight night at the Casman Centre, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons would try to mount a third period comeback but would come up just short.

Down 2-0 late in Game 4 of their best-of-seven North Division semi-final against the Sherwood Park Crusaders, the Oil Barons struck once but that was all they could get past Matt Berlin as they fell 2-1 and watched the Crusaders take a 3-games-to-1 series lead.

“We talk about the finer points like eliminating turnovers and not getting caught on the wrong side of the puck, limiting odd man rushes. Both goals today were scored on odd man rushes and against very good teams, they only need two chances to score two goals.” said MOB Head Coach Tom Keca.

For a third time in the series it was the Crusaders who opened the scoring. Off an odd man rush, former Oil Baron Jack Hamly flew down his off wing before snapping a shot under the glove of Chris Curr 9:21 into the first period.

The Barons had a much better second period and generated several grade A chances in front of Matt Berlin. Tyson Scott fed Nathan Carl in the slot and his shot was stopped. Then it was Kole Gable walking out of the corner and trying to tuck the puck around Berlin’s pad but the big netminder stuck with him and made the save.

The Oil Barons were trying everything to get Berlin off his game and that included getting in his grill during a scrum. Berlin went after Liam Izyk and emerged from a pile of players without his helmet. As he was skating back to his crease, he gave Ty Ettinger a shot to the head so Ettinger punched him back and dropped the goaltender sending the 1,190 fans in attendance into a frenzy.

Pressing in the third period, a bad pinch by the Oil Barons resulted in another odd man rush for the Crusaders and they would make the MOB pay. Garrett Clegg fired a shot short side under the arm of Curr for his third goal of the series to put the visitor’s up 2-0 with 11:06 remaining.

The MOB needed a spark and it was the new fan favourite who gave it to them. After Reed Morison’s shot was stopped, the rebound was kicked right to Ettinger who hammered home his second goal of the playoffs to give the MOB a chance as he beat Berlin. 

“He’s sneaky tough, plays hard on his stick, he’s tough below the hash-marks in his own zone and he’s fairly responsible and now he’s broadening his horizons and adding that offensive side to his game,” said Keca of Ettinger who has four points through eight playoff games.

With the net empty, the Barons threw everything at the Crusaders goal but could not find the equalizer. The MOB out shot the Crusaders 15-8 in the third period and 35-32 in the game.

“When you strip everything down and you look at the statistics, we just haven’t scored enough in this series. We got shutout once, we got shutout for two periods (in Game 3), and again tonight we got shutout for two periods,” said Keca as the Barons have been out scored 12-8 in the series through 4 games. “We need some guys to wake up offensively and everybody knows we’ve been a team that relies on everybody and we talked in the dressing that if all 20 guys pull the rope a little bit we’re going to get a lot further ahead.”

With their season on the line, the MOB head back to Sherwood Park for Game 5 on Friday. A fan bus is heading to the game and if you’re interested you can call the Oil Barons office at 780-743-5509. If not you can catch all the action on Country 93.3 with Taylor Pope. Pre-game show gets underway at 6:45 p.m.

“There’s still a lot of fight left in our dressing room and right now we talked about it as a group where we’re at that fork in the road where we can just give up or we can pull our boot straps up a little tighter and go back to work Friday night and try to get this series back here for Sunday.”

Written by: Taylor Pope,

Photo by: Dan Lines