Make it 6 – Barons take down Okotoks in OT 2-1

FORT MCMURRAY, AB (September 21, 2013) — With their narrowest win yet, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons (6-0) snuck by the south division powerhouse Okotoks Oilers (2-1-1) 2-1 in overtime on Friday night, to push their season-opening winning streak to 6 games in front of 1,644 people at the Casman Centre.

A goaltending clinic saw goaltenders Tanner Jaillet (Red Deer, AB) of Fort McMurray and Jared D'Amico of Okotoks save a combined total of 77 shots.

The game remained scoreless until the 8:06 mark of the second period, when Barons defenceman Louis-Joseph Sawyer (Montreal, PQ) collected a rebound after a stellar save by D'Amico, and fed a wrist shot through a crowd in front of the Okotoks net, between the pads of the Oiler netminder, for his first goal as an Oil Baron and a 1-0 McMurray lead.

But just over two minutes later, the Oilers took advantage of a Barons turnover at their blueline, sending a pass to Mitch Amatto at the top of the crease, who had all the time he needed to backhand one towards the goal line, then help it over with a poke check past a sprawling Jaillet to tie the game.

A later apparent Oilers goal by Connor Hartley was disallowed when the referee ruled that Rhett Gardner had interfered with Jaillet, and the Barons headed to overtime for the first time this season.

A tripping penalty to Adam Durkee (Lafayette, CO) seemed to set up the perfect game-winning opportunity for the Oilers, with a 4-on-3 powerplay that only produced more saves for Jaillet.

With time winding down in the man advantage, Kevin Miller (Stony Plain, AB) intercepted a pass, then was tripped by an Oiler forward, putting the Barons on a delayed penalty. Now 4-on-4, Barons defenceman Brett McNeil (Halifax, NS) carried the puck into the Oilers zone and fed a pass across to Ryan Bloom (Calgary, AB) at the right point. His shot was tipped into the net by defenceman Zach Wittenburg (Chestermere, AB), sending the crowd into a frenzy and sending the Barons streaming off the bench to celebrate the 6-0 start.

Despite the win, head coach Gord Thibodeau wasn't happy with the closeness of the game, especially when the MOB had 10 power play chances in it.

“I'm going to pretend I'm happy, and I'm going to say it's outstanding, and it's obviously better to be 6-0 than 5-1, but I didn't get to see the final goal because of the red fire in my eyes from the effort of our boys tonight,” said a frank Thibodeau.

“I didn't think we deserved it,” he added. “We had enough power plays that this shouldn't have been a one goal game, but unfortunately there's something that happens when you win a lot; the ears tend to close, and we don't tend to listen much. That's going on right now.”

The coach did reserve those comments when it came to the 38-save performance by Jaillet.

“Let's face it; he was the only player that was on par and was ready,” said Thibodeau. “He's going to steal you some games over the course of the season.

“When your leaders aren't leading, it's tough, but thank god our biggest leader tonight was in the net.”

The Barons are back in action Saturday night, hosting the 3-1 Canmore Eagles at 8:00 PM. Pre-game coverage starts at 7:45 on Country 93.3.

Country 93.3 3 stars:
1. Tanner Jaillet (38 saves, 39 shots)
2. Jared D'Amico (39 saves, 41 shots)
3. Zach Wittenburg (1 game-winning goal)