After a bit of a slow start, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons are starting to play some real good hockey of late.
A tough physical brand with strong goaltending and timely scoring.
That style of play was on full display this past weekend as the Spruce Grove Saints were in town.
After the Saints took Friday night?s game 4-1 after scoring two late goals in the third period, the MOB crashed and banged their way to hard fought 3-2 victory Saturday, handing the Saints just their second loss of the season.
?It was real gutsy effort, obviously Freddy (Evan Fradette) was exceptional but the guys played hard and they gave us everything they had,? said MOB Head Coach Bob Beatty after the win. ?We had some key blocked shots it was a good gritty, gutsy effort and everyone contributed.?
Fradette made 33 saves in the win on Saturday, his first career AJHL victory. Chris Curr took the loss on Friday but had perhaps his best performance of the season making 26 saves.
The MOB (3-5-1) opened the scoring on Friday when Jonathan Assayag jumped on a loose puck in front of the Saints goal and ripped it into the top right corner for his 4th of the year.
From there, the Saints (8-2-0) scored four answered including a pair of goals from Nick Leyer. Tensions began to boil over in the game after a questionable hit from the Saints Cole Basnett on the Oil Barons Tyler Wallace. The first year Oil Barons forward left the ice bleeding after his heard slammed against the glass.
In the third period Alec Johnson launched Leyer into the boards and when the Saint approached Johnson the MOB defenceman dropped the mitts and set him down.
That physical play would continue into Saturday?s game when Max Struss and Ryan Harker squared off in the second period with each player landing bombs.
The MOB scored first for a fourth straight game when Ty Budai snapped a shot past the Saints netminder Max Duchesne 15:38 into the game on a shorthanded breakaway. Budai would strike again 2:33 into the second period when he hammered home a cross ice pass from Jesse Burchart for his 3rd goal of the season.
?He has exceptional speed, he?s not a huge guy physically but he has a big heart and he plays hard,? said Beatty of Budai who was acquired from the Olds Grizzlys this off-season. ?He plays a 200 foot game, he?s a guy that you can rely on in any situation and to get offence out of him is a bonus. He makes plays because he?s a smart player, he?s just a real complete player and he works hard every day.?
The Saints were able to battle back getting goals from Leyer and Stanley Cooley to tie the game 2-2 early in the third period.
The Barons would get a power play with just under seven minutes remaining and as they worked the puck around they found Ryan Conroy at the point. He took a pass and quickly fired a wrist shot that beat Duchesne through a screen in front.
The captain gave the MOB the lead and would also save the day with a last second backcheck with the clock winding down. Basnett had a partial breakaway down the left wing before Conroy raced back to knock the puck away before the buzzer sounded.
?He?s got character and grit written all over him. He can skate, he can shoot, he?s tough and he had a great defensive play at the end of the game, he?s a complete player and a good leader for us,? said Beatty of his captain who has logged huge minutes on the blueline early in the season.
The MOB will face the Saints this weekend for a fourth time in the opening month of the season as they finish up a three-in-three road trip Sunday afternoon in Spruce Grove. Before that game the MOB will head to Sherwood Park Friday and Drayton Valley on Saturday.
Written by: Taylor Pope, mymcmurray.com
Photo by: Dan Lines