The Fort McMurray Oil Barons made the long trip up to Grande Prairie this weekend and came away with a hard fought split against the Storm.
The MOB (12-8-5) dropped Saturday’s game 4-1 before rebounding Sunday afternoon with a come from behind 4-3 win.
Saturday’s game saw the Storm (13-11-2) jump out to a 2-0 lead before Nolen Coventry cut the lead in half. MOB goalie Josh Dias kept his team in the game but the Barons had no answer for Kaeden Lane who made several huge stops in the third period. The Storm would get two late goals including an empty netter to seal the victory.
“He did everything in his power to give us an opportunity but when you only score one goal you’re expecting him to be perfect and you’re expecting our team to be perfect and we were anything but,” said MOB Head Coach Tom Keca on Dias who made 22 saves in the loss.
Sunday’s contest started out horribly for the Oil Barons as the Storm opened up a 3-0 lead mid-way through the second period off powerplay goals from Zach Webb and Zachary Okabe before Jackson Wozniak beat Dias under the arm.
Dias was making back to back starts for the first time this season and the MOB were down a forward after Chad MacLean was handed a two game suspension for a cross-checking major penalty in Saturday’s game.
The Storm looked to be in control but the Oil Barons showed no quit and it was 16 year old Jesse Burchart who gave them the spark they needed. Burchart picked up the puck in centre ice and blew past the Storm defence before lifting a shot over the shoulder of Lane to put the MOB on the board with 5:12 left in the second period.
“He’s got a great set of wheels and once he starts getting comfortable and he understands what exactly he can and can’t do, he’s going to be a dangerous player,” said Keca of Burchart who has points in back to back games.
The Barons would keep coming and after a penalty to the Storm the MOB powerplay went to work. Jarred White dug the puck free behind the Storm goal and threw it out front to a wide open Konrad Belcourt. His shot beat Lane on the glove hand to cut the deficit to 3-2 heading into the third period.
The MOB got the break they needed 5:25 into the third period when Sean McCloskey broke down the left wing and whipped the puck towards the goal from a sharp angle. It fooled Lane and the game was tied 3-3.
In the final minute it looked like the game was destined for overtime but Gunner Kinniburgh blocked a shot and quickly sent the puck up ice to Nicholas McCarry. Gaining the Storm zone McCarry found a wide open Reed Morison on the far side and the AJHL goal leader buried his league leading 18th goal with 41.8 seconds left on the clock to complete the comeback.
“That’s the key, he’s such a big guy but he finds ways to lurk in the weeds,” said Keca of Morison. “It was actually kind of funny because in the last two minutes we got our lines messed up off of a bad change we couldn’t get one guy off so we just rotated centremen and Morison ended up going with (Jack) Hamly and (Nicholas) McCarry.”
The three goal comeback was the biggest for the MOB this season and helped Josh Dias pick up his first career AJHL victory.
“There’s just a lot of belief, our guys were very vocal on the bench and in the dressing room and we understood the importance of the game – for us to get points in a very difficult building and to get two out of three on a road trip is crucial,” said Keca.
The Barons are now home for their next six games starting Friday and Saturday when they welcome the reigning AJHL champion Spruce Grove Saints to the Casman Centre.
MOB Head Coach Tom Keca on the Country 93.3 post-game show.
Written by: Taylor Pope, mymcmurray.com
Photo by: Dan Lines