GRANDE PRAIRIE, AB (September 12, 2014) – Zach Fortin (St. Jerome, PQ) stopped all 39 shots he faced, while captain Jetlan Houcher (Paradise Valley, AB) scored his first-ever junior hockey hat trick, as the Fort McMurray Oil Barons (4-0) continued their perfect start to the season with a 4-0 win over the Grande Prairie Storm (1-2) on the road Friday night.
As has been common for the Oil Barons this season, the shot count started significantly in their opponent’s favour, with the Storm outshooting the MOB 13-6 in the opening twenty minutes, with neither team finding the back of the net.
In the second period, it took the Barons only 17 seconds to score the eventual game winning goal, when rookie forward Austin Holmes (Calgary, AB) sent a puck in front from behind the net, where Houcher was waiting in the high slot to collect the puck and wrist it past goaltender Andy Gilker for a 1-0 McMurray lead.
Just over ten minutes later, a similar play led to a doubled MOB lead, when Holmes won a puck battle in the left-wing corner against multiple Storm defenders, and flung a puck in front to a waiting Houcher, who one-timed it in for his second of the night.
Later in the period, Storm forward Jade McMullen was tripped on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot. But Fortin made a quick standing blocker save to preserve the shutout and the two-goal McMurray lead. Later in the frame, Fortin would make a vital glove save on a 2-on-1 rush for the Storm, a save capped off by a third-period stop in which he dove from the near post to the far to stop a backdoor point-blank tap-in chance for Grande Prairie.
The Barons narrowed their shot deficit to just 10-8 in that middle frame.
In the third, the Barons were afforded a power play when Parker Wakaruk of the Storm checked an Oil Baron away from the puck, and was sent off for interference. Zach Wittenburg (Chestermere, AB) had a pass deflect in the air that Houcher gloved down at the left-wing circle. The captain proceeded to cut away from a defender and fire a quick wrist shot in past Gilker to complete the hat trick and give the Barons a 3-0 lead.
That lead would hold until there were just eight seconds in the game, when newcomer to the MOB Trent Lofthouse (Surrey, BC) evaded a couple of Storm at his own blue line and threaded a perfect pass up the middle to Mitch Vanderlaan (Hanwell, NB), who skated in on a breakaway on an empty Grande Prairie net and made it a 4-0 final.
The final shots on goal were 38-24 in favour of Grande Prairie. The Oil Barons were 1 for 3 on the power play and 2 for 2 on the penalty kill (and now a perfect 10-for-10 on the season when down a man).
The team is back in action tomorrow night to finish off the back-to-back series against the Storm. Puck drop is at 7:30 with pre-game coverage starting at 7:15 on KAOS 91.1.
KAOS 91.1 3 stars:
3. Austin Holmes (2 assists)
2. Zach Fortin (39 shot shutout)
1. Jetlan Houcher (3 goals)