SPRUCE GROVE, AB (January 9, 2013) — The Fort McMurray Oil Barons (21-18-4) dropped their third straight game, and saw their goalless streak extended to 125 minutes and 42 seconds of playing time, in a 2-0 road loss to the Spruce Grove Saints on Wednesday night.
The loss, combined with a Whitecourt win against Grande Prairie, drops the Barons into 6th place in the AJHL North, 3 points ahead of the Sherwood Park Crusaders who have 3 games in hand on the MOB.
“I thought the effort level was a lot better,” said Barons assistant coach Ryan Allen. “It definitely wasn't perfect, but I think overall, not too bad, and certainly better than Sunday in Sherwood Park [a 4-0 loss].”
Former Oil Baron forward Kevin Lacroix played his first game for Spruce Grove after being acquired the previous day from Flin Flon of the SJHL. He scored the team's second goal of the game with 1:11 to go in the second period, finding a rebound at the side of the McMurray net and jamming it past MOB netminder Tanner Jaillet (Red Deer, AB).
Five and a half minutes earlier, the Saints had taken the lead on a centring pass from Parker Mackay that found rookie Tyler Mrkonjic alone backdoor to tap a backhander past Jaillet for the eventual game-winner.
Saints netminder Kenny Cameron stopped all 25 shots that the Barons sent his way.
“We're getting our chances,” said Allen. “It'd be worse if we weren't getting our chances, but we are, and I think now it's just a matter of bearing down and finishing those chances.”
The Barons were given another standout performance by Jaillet, who stopped 35 of 37 shots in the losing effort.
“I think Tanner played again, the way he did in Spruce Grove the last game before Christmas,” said Allen. “He was solid again, and both goals I thought weren't his fault. We made two mistakes, and they buried them.”
The road power-play, ranked last in the league, continued to struggle as it registered an 0-for-5 night for the second consecutive game.
“It's just about keeping it simple, and moving the puck around,” said Allen of the power play. “We would've liked to have more shots on the powerplay – there were a couple of times where I thought we passed up some good scoring opportunities – but I think on the road it's getting better – it's going to be a work in progress.”
Late in the third, Lacroix dropped his gloves for a short, awkward fight with teammate Scott Pooley (Granger, IN) that resembled more of a wrestling match; both players were given 5 minute roughing majors instead of fighting penalties.
The Barons have the next two days off before a vital home game against the Grande Prairie Storm on Saturday night at 8 o'clock, as they seek to end the long goal scoring drought against a team that holds one of the lowest goals against averages in the league.
“I know Grande Prairie's goalies are certainly two good goaltenders,” said Allen, “but we've beaten them before, and we don't see them as unbeatable at all.”
The Barons have won 22 straight games against the Storm.
Pre-game coverage on Saturday starts at 7:45 on Country 93.3.
Country 93.3 3 stars:
3. Tyler Mrkonjic (1 game winning goal)
2. Tanner Jaillet (35 saves, 37 shots)
1. Kenny Cameron (25 shot shutout)