WHITECOURT, AB (March 11, 2013) — The 2012-13 season came to an end for the Fort McMurray Oil Barons on Monday night, after a narrow 4-3 loss in the deciding Game 5 of their opening round playoff series with the Whitecourt Wolverines.
The Barons had forced the final game of the series after an epic comeback in Saturday night's Game 4, having tied the game with 6 seconds left when also trailing 4-3, and having won on Scott Pooley's natural hat trick goal less than a minute into overtime.
But there would be no late game drama for the Barons in this one, as they lost a 2-1 lead after two periods, and while clawing back from a 3-2 deficit midway through the third, could not muster the same last-minute pressure to force another extra frame.
“It was kind of a strange game,” said head coach Gord Thibodeau. “We were pretty good in the first; I thought we dominated the second, had a lot of opportunities, and once again didn’t finish enough.”
The Barons headed into the second period with a 1-0 deficit thanks to a powerplay deflection goal from Jess Tanguy of the Wolverines in the opening frame.
They would dominate the middle stanza with an 18-8 shot advantage, highlighted by two powerplay goals.
The first came from Adam Durkee (Lafayette, CO) at 5:51 on a perfectly placed wrist shot from the right wing faceoff circle, setup by a nifty play by Erik Pedersen (Calgary, AB) at neutral ice to gain the Whitecourt blue line.
At 10:07, on a 5-on-3 man advantage, Parker Evans-Campbell (High River, AB) threw a puck in front from the right-wing corner, which deflected off of goaltender Tanner Kovacs and into the net for the Barons' first and only lead of the night.
The third period would be decisively in Whitecourt's favour, however, as they turned the shot tally right around with a 14-6 advantage.
First, Tanguy scored the game-tying goal at 3:06 on a wraparound shot; then a go-ahead goal came minutes later off a perfect backdoor pass to league-leading goal scorer Jerome Raymond.
A scramble in front of the Whitecourt net allowed Justin Fraser to knot the game 3-3, but soon after, a panicked Barons defence allowed a wide-open wraparound try from Whitecourt forward Ryan Berlin to produce a rebound that an equally open Joel Herbert buried for the series-winning goal.
“I don’t know that they won the game as much as we gave them the game,” said Thibodeau. “ As we told our guys, you can’t win in this league backing up. You need to go and get that next one, and we looked like we were hoping we could hang on.”
With the win, the Wolverines will advance to the second round to play the Bonnyville Pontiacs, while the Barons will miss that round for the first time in 10 years.
For Thibodeau, the reflection will begin; just not right away.
“I’m going to take a few weeks here, as a staff, just to get away, and think a little bit about this year: what some of the positives were, and some of the things we need to improve upon,” he said.
“But, like the players, it’s going to hurt the staff for a little while too,” he added, “so rather than make any rash judgements, we’ll reconvene here in two or three weeks and set out a gameplan for the summer and what we need to do to get this team back on top.”
Barons captain Mike Marianchuk (Innisfail, AB) played in his final AJHL game; but the rest of the team is eligible to return next season.
“I don’t think the team had anything left to give us,” the coach said. “They certainly gave us everything they could; it’s unfortunate that we couldn’t find a way.”