The Fort McMurray Oil Barons and Bonnyville Pontiacs went toe to toe in Game 1 of their North Division quarter-final. The Pontiacs took two leads in the game but the Barons kept clawing their way back and in double overtime it was Jack Hamly scoring the winner to give the MOB the 3-2 win and a 1-0 series lead.
After Justin Travis and Chris Curr went save for save in the first overtime, the MOB wasted no time in the second scoring 2:22 in after Jordan Roy fed Curtis Roach at the point. A quick shot bounced off the leg of Hamly and went up over the shoulder of Travis and into the back of the net.
“For Hamly to get the OT winner, I thought for probably the first 40-45 games Hamly was our most consistent player. In a little bit of a funk but I thought that line gave us a lot of energy with (Jarred) White and (Jordan) Roy and full credit to them and happy for Hamly,” said MOB Head Coach Tom Keca.
The Oil Barons entered the series as the the number two seed in the North Division, 41 points ahead of the seventh seeded Pontiacs but a young Pontiacs team were backstopped by their netminder who kept them in the game early. Travis made 46 saves in the game including an early flurry of chances from the MOB in the opening minutes.
The Pontiacs would open the scoring just seconds after their powerplay expired. Bekkam Willis knocked down a clearing attempt and his shot bounced off Olson Werenka right to Brendan Morrow who tapped the puck around Eric Szudor 8:59 into the game.
The Barons would tie the game 1-1 with three minutes left in the period. Will Conley sprung Merritt Oszytko on the left wing. His shot was kicked right into the slot off the pad of Travis to Taner Miller and the MOB defenceman made no mistake.
A scramble in front of the MOB goal mid-way through the second period led to the Pontiacs second goal. Lucas Thorne found a loose puck outside the crease as Szudor lay helpless on the ice with several bodies on top of him. Thorne buried his shot to put the Yaks up 2–1. Szudor suffered an injury on the play and was forced to leave the game a few minutes later. Chris Curr came in relief and would shut the door the rest of the way making 24 saves in his first playoff appearance.
“We have to be a hungry team and we want to play on our toes and when you allow a young team to move the puck and it’s just too easy to breakout and now we’re chasing. In that first overtime we gave up two three-on-twos and we got lucky and Curr comes in in a tough situation where he probably doesn’t think he’s going to play tonight and he steps up and he’s done that time and time again through the course of the year,” said Keca of his young netminder.
Justin Travis made several highlight reel saves on the MOB, robbing both Conley and Hamly on two-on ones. The Barons finally beat him 1:55 into the third period after Reed Morison’s high shot knocked Travis down. The puck went to Liam Izyk who roofed a shot to tie the game 2-2.
“I thought that at times we were really good, I thought that we should’ve finished the game in regulation but we didn’t but full credit to our boys for persevering and getting the win,” said Keca.
This was a second straight playoff where the two teams went to double overtime in Game 1. Last season the Barons defeated the Pontiacs 4 games to 1 after losing Game 1 in double overtime in the second round. Game 2 goes Friday night at the Casman Centre before the series shifts to Bonnyville for Game 3 Sunday and if necessary Game 4 on Monday.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. get your tickets at the Casman Centre box office or online.
Written by: Taylor Pope, mymcmurray.com
Photo by: Dan Lines