The Fort McMurray Oil Barons and Spruce Grove Saints battled for a sixth and final time Friday night in front of a packed house at the Grant Fuhr Arena.
The game had the feel of playoff hockey as each team knew how important the two points up for grabs were. It would be the Saints who broke a 3-3 tie late in the third period and added an insurance marker to pick up the 5-3 win and clinch third place in the North Division.
The MOB needed two points over their final three games to clinch first place in the North, they will get another opportunity Saturday night when they visit Drayton Valley.
“It wasn’t unfortunate, we got what we deserved,” said MOB head coach Tom Keca on the play of his team. “Playoff atmosphere but not a playoff like effort.”
The Barons got the start they wanted opening the scoring 3:42 into the first period when Jarred White intercepted a pass in the Saints zone and ripped a shot over the glove hand of Nolan Kent. The goal was White’s seventh of the year and assisted by Liam Izyk.
The Saints would tie the game at 13:25 when Cole Chorney chipped home a loose puck at the side of the goal.
The Barons pushed back and regained the lead just moments after. Brandon Ralph drove hard to the goal from the corner. The puck got knocked off his stick but he was able to regain control and throw a pass out front to Matteo Aiello who buried his 10th of the season. Aiello now has goals in three straight games.
The second period saw the Saints take their first lead of the game with two goals in a 1:32 span just past the mid-way point of the frame. Chorney tied the game as the final seconds of a Saints powerplay winded down. The next goal would be a bit controversial. Angus Scott fired a shot from the top of the circle that ricocheted off the end boards off the back of MOB goalie Eric Szudor and trickled towards the goal line before being swept away by Shane Fraser. The initial call on the ice was no goal but after much deliberation it was deemed that the puck did cross the goal line.
“Against a good team like Spruce Grove you have to move your feet, you have to be on your toes, you have to eliminate time and space, you need to move and when you have an opportunity to get pucks out you get pucks out,” said Keca.
The MOB tied the game before the period was out when Stefan Wood sent a perfect shot on goal from the right point. Kent didn’t even move as the puck sailed into the top corner for Wood’s first goal as an Oil Baron.
The two teams pressed for the go ahead goal in the third and with just over four minutes to play on a late powerplay the Saints broke the tie when Jordan Thomas snapped a shot off the far goal post and in to give the Saints a 4-3 lead.
Angus Scott would give the Saints all the insurance they needed with a great rush up ice before cutting to the middle and sliding a backhand shot through the legs of Szudor.
“They wore us down, our defence looked extremely tired in the third period because we played the majority of the game in our own zone,” said Keca.
With the win the Saints take the season series 4-2. The MOB will look to bounce back Saturday night when they take on the Thunder. Pre-game show at 7:15p.m. on Country 93.3.
Written by: Taylor Pope, mymcmurray.com.
Photographer: Dan Lines
AUDIO: Tom Keca recaps the loss and the team's mindset heading into today's game in Drayton Valley.