FORT MCMURRAY, AB (September 7, 2013) — The Fort McMurray Oil Barons (2-0) got goals from 4 different goal scorers, and 16 saves from netminder Tanner Jaillet (Red Deer, AB), en route to a 4-0 shutout win over the Spruce Grove Saints on Saturday night, sweeping their division archrivals on opening weekend in front of 1,475 fans.
A stellar defensive effort in the first period had the Barons holding the Saints to just two shots on goal in the opening twenty minutes, while firing nine of their own at rookie Spruce Grove netminder Tanner McCorriston.
“I really thought that there was a bit more of a concerted effort to shore up our end,” said Barons head coach and GM Gord Thibodeau of that first period stat. “I thought our defence were outstanding. Anytime you can shutout a Spruce Grove team, you've done a pretty good job.”
The only goal of that frame, the eventual game-winner, came at the 10:04 mark, just after the expiration of a MOB power-play, when Brennan Saulnier (Halifax, NS) showed off his playmaking skills for the second consecutive night, feeding a perfectly placed pass from the right-wing sideboards to defenceman Zach Wittenburg (Chestermere, AB) in the slot, whose wrist shot beat McCorriston on the far side.
The second period was played far more evenly, with the Barons holding a narrow edge in shots, 7-6, but with the Saints generating the majority of scoring chances; still, Jaillet kept the shutout within reach.
In the third, the Barons began to pull away when Scott Pooley roofed a shot from the bottom of the right-wing circle over the glove hand of McCorriston for his first goal of the year and a 2-0 MOB lead.
“That's just an NHL shot,” Thibodeau described. “Very quick release to the top shelf.”
But a two-on-one rush by the Saints, with Cameron Hughes feeding a cross-slot pass to Dylan Hollman, seemed certain to get the visitors on the board, until Jaillet made the save of the game by sprawling across the crease and getting his blocker on the puck, deflecting it over the end glass.
The Barons seized the momentum thereafter, adding two more late-game goals. Just past the halfway mark, Saulnier showed off his passing prowess again, with a feed from the right-wing circle to a waiting Kevin Miller (Stony Plain, AB) at the left side of the Saints net, with the second-year MOB forward outwaiting goaltender McCorriston, cutting in front of the net, and tucking the puck around the fallen goaltender for a 3-0 margin.
Miller scored his second point assisting on the final goal, when a pass by Ryan Bloom (Calgary, AB) deflected straight to Kaiden Tobin (Stony Plain, AB) in the slot. A quick wrist shot from the first-year Baron gave Fort McMurray a 4-0 lead, and eventually, the first shutout of the season for Jaillet.
“Sometimes it's really tough to play games when you're not getting a lot of work,” said Thibodeau. “It just shows his focus; as a twenty-year old, he was really strong. We made some dumb plays in our d-zone trying to protect the shutout, and unfortunately left him out to dry two or three times in the third period, but he was up to the task.”
“He looks like he did at the end of last year; he had such a great second half, and this start so far, the first two games, he looks like he's right on pace.”
The Barons will defend their undefeated record next weekend with three games on the road. It starts Friday night in Camrose when the MOB takes on the Kodiaks at 7:00 PM. Pre-game coverage starts at 6:45 PM on Country 93.3.
Country 93.3 3 stars:
3. Kevin Miller (1 goal, 1 assist)
2. Brennan Saulnier (2 assists)
1. Tanner Jaillet (16 save shutout)