The Fort McMurray Oil Barons continued their six game road trip Friday night in Sherwood Park as they battled the Crusaders. The MOB recorded their biggest comeback of the season in a wild third period that saw them score four times.
Trailing 3-0 mid-way through the second period, the Oil Barons (15-2-1) caught fire, scoring five unanswered goals including three in the final five minutes of the third period to roar back and beat the Crusaders 5-3.
“It was awesome. These are the types of efforts that we need,” said MOB head coach Tom Keca after the thrilling come from behind victory.
Meeting for the first time after the two clubs swapped 19 year old forwards on Tuesday, both Merritt Oszytko and Ryan Cox were in the lineup and ready to make an immediate impact against their former teams.
Cox would draw first blood, 2:37 into the game. The former Baron jumped off the bench and got in behind the MOB defence. Cox made a quick move before fooling Eric Szudor through the legs for his 10th goal of the year.
“I thought that for two or three shifts in the first period we got caught watching and obviously they spring the first goal and low and behold it’s Ryan Cox,” said Keca with a laugh. “Other than that I thought we played extremely well.”
The Crusaders (7-10-1) would double their lead at 8:05 on a powerplay when Garrett Clegg deflected in a Tyler Pang point shot that dipped under the arm of Szudor.
Despite the two goal deficit, the Barons controlled much of the period, outshooting the Crusaders 21-8 but weren’t able to beat Joshua Dechaine.
Things got worse for the Oil Barons when the Crusaders ramped up their play in the second period and were able to capitalize on a turnover by the Barons in their own end. Dylan Stewart whacked in a loose puck to give the Cru a 3-0 lead.
Once Ryan Cox scored, you knew Merritt Oszytko wanted to get on the board against his former team. The Edmonton, Alberta native did just that late in the second as he was able to inject some life back into the MOB. Jack Hamly won a face-off straight back to Oszytko who snapped a quick shot five hole on Dechaine for his first goal as an Oil Baron and 11th on the year.
“I thought that he was outstanding,” said Keca of the play of Oszytko in his first game with the MOB. “For him to come in and get powerplay time and score that goal – he was great.”
The Barons cut the Crusaders lead to one, 5:09 into the third period when Reed Morision fed Liam Izyk and he blew past a defender and walked around the outstretched leg of Dechaine to slide home his 4th goal of the season.
The Oil Barons kept coming at the Crusaders and Sherwood Park had no answer for the speed of Will Conley. With just under five minutes left in the third period, Hamly crossed the Crusaders blueline and hit Conley in stride with a pass. With no hesitation, Conley ripped a backhand shot into the top right corner to tie the game 3-3.
Conley would again use his explosive speed and shot to his advantage when he gave the MOB their first lead of the game two minutes and 30 seconds after his first goal. Morison hit him with a feed down the right wing. The 19 year old hit the top of the circle and wired a wrist shot into the top left corner for his league leading 16th goal.
“Morison makes a great pass, hits him (Conley) with speed and he got snake bitten a couple times in the first period when he rang one off the post so you could tell that he was frustrated but when he gets frustrated he bears down and he digs a little deeper and you know it’s just a matter of time before he finds the back of the net and for him to score that goal, at a crucial time was huge for us,” said Keca on Conley.
Conley now has 16 goals in 18 games. In comparison, last season he scored 16 goals in 48 games.
JC Thivierge would add an empty net goal with just over a minute left in the game after an aggressive forecheck from Oszytko forced a turnover in the Crusaders end.
“This is one of those character building wins. It was a tough week for our guys, we made a major trade which probably caught a lot of guys off guard but we think it’s going to improve our hockey team. You’re losing a good friend in Ryan Cox and guys are trying to find now what’s going on and what can I do and a win like this will hopefully bring us closer together,” said Keca.
The Oil Barons continue their road trip Saturday night in Drayton Valley before wrapping up Sunday afternoon in Spruce Grove.
MOB head coach Tom Keca on the Country 93.3 Post-Game Show.
Written by: Taylor Pope, mymcmurray.com.
Photo by: Dan Lines, Fort McMurray Oil Barons