MOB rolls on, downing Camrose 4-1

CAMROSE, AB (September 13, 2013) — The undefeated season continues for the Fort McMurray Oil Barons (3-0), after a 4-1 win over the Camrose Kodiaks on the road to start the team's first road trip of the regular season.

A shaky first period saw the team get outshot 12-3; but goalie Tanner Jaillet kept them in it, allowing for a dominant three-goal second period to be the difference.

“First period, I thought, was very poor; what I expected on the road,” said head coach Gord Thibodeau. “We looked a little intimidated, a little scared, maybe, of their physicality. We responded well in the second and third, I thought, and once we got our speed going, we created some opportunities. Overall, a solid 40 minutes, and we're working towards getting 60.”

Just over five minutes into the first, second-year forward Kevin Miller (Stony Plain, AB) opened the scoring after finding the puck alone at the side of the Camrose net, cutting in front and banking a point blank backhand shot off of goaltender Matthew Zentner, up in the air, and into the net for his second marker of the season.

That was followed up less than five minutes later when a Brett McNeil (Halifax, NS) point shot went off the heel of his stick, but straight to forward Mitchell Byrne (Onaping, ON), whose quick wrister beat Zentner for a 2-0 lead.

“McNeil fanned on his shot, and it went right on my stick,” explained Byrne. “I turned around, and let it go, and scored in the same spot I did earlier against Spruce Grove.”

The second period flurry was capped off with a highlight reel goal from Brennan Saulnier (Halifax, NS), whose quick rush from neutral ice and past several Camrose defenders ended with the speedy forward jamming a close range shot between the pads of Zentner for his first goal in MOB colours.

The three goals came on three consecutive shots for the MOB, and chased Zentner in favour of the night's backup, Devin McDonald.

“I thought we had a pretty bad first period; and nothing was really going for us,” said Byrne. “But the second and third period, I guess we started communicating more; everyone was starting to work a bit harder. In the dressing room between the first and period, people started talking, saying 'guys, we gotta get going.'” 

The Kodiaks did finally end Tanner Jaillet's shutout bid in the third period when Jody Sick beat the MOB netminder with a point blank backhander; but the Barons reclaimed the three-goal margin when Byrne dodged a hit at centre ice, then collected a centering pass from behind the net and one-timed it past McDonald for the team's first power play goal of the season, and the 4-1 score.

The MOB finished 1 for 6 on the man advantage while the perfect penalty kill kept its 100% rating with a 7 for 7 night.

“Your best penalty killer is usually your goaltender,” said Thibodeau. “He was solid again tonight when he needed to be, but I thought our penalty kill did a real good job all night. We knew that based on a south ref, they were going to get their chances. I think they had 5 or 6 in a row there, and our penalty kill, you could say, really put us in a great position to win the hockey game.”

Rookie forwards dominated the stat sheet, with Danton Ayotte (Wetaskiwin, AB) notching two assists and the aforementioned Byrne leading the way with 2 goals.

“It's always difficult; you're not quite sure what the rookies are going to be able to do,” said Thibodeau of his expectations for the freshmen. “For Danton, I was very pleased for him. He had a real solid game; I thought he might've been – if not our best forward – he was certainly one of our better forwards; and what can you say about Byrne and [Mitchell] Vanderlaan? They've been the best one-two punch that we've had all year, virtually.”

The Barons continue the road trip tomorrow night with a 7 PM game against the Drayton Valley Thunder.

“It's going to be tough; it's their home opener, so obviously they're going to be raring to go,” Thibodeau said of his expectations. “It's another example of us being in a tough building, with a team that's going to come at us a hundred miles an hour, trying to slow us down.”

“[Goaltender] Jesse [Gordichuk] will get the start tomorrow; nothing like throwing him into the fire.”

The game will be broadcast on Country 93.3 starting at 6:45 PM.

Country 93.3 3 stars:
3. Danton Ayotte (2 assists)
2. Tanner Jaillet (26 saves/27 shots)
1. Mitchell Byrne (2 goals)