After dropping the first two games of their road trip, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons put forth a solid team effort Saturday night in Bonnyville and came away with a 2-1 win over the Pontiacs.
Merritt Oszytko broke a 1-1 tie with 1:09 left in the third period on the powerplay to send the MOB to their league leading 19th win of the season.
A banged up team finishing off the road trip, the MOB dressed just five defenceman after playing the night before with only four for nearly half the game, the Barons gritted out a hard fought road win.
“I thought that we did a great job. This is a tough building to play in if you’ve never been here before because the neutral zone is so tight so for our guys to gut one out – three-in-three and all those different types of scenarios, we could’ve used a lot of excuses,” said MOB Head Coach Tom Keca on his teams performance. “We talked about the team in my opinion is a little bit fragile right now and we were in a bit of a funk but these are the types of efforts we talk to our players about and just keeping things as simple as we can.”
The Oil Barons (19-4-2) leading goal scorer kept his torrid pace going by opening the scoring at the 13:47 mark of the first period.
Will Conley intercepted a pass in centre ice and broke in down the right wing. Conley cut to the middle and beat the Pontiacs Sandro Silvestre upstairs on the blocker arm for his 21st goal of the season.
A penalty by the Barons late in the first period would give the Pontiacs (10-10-4) the man advantage to start the second and they would capitalize off a great individual effort by Derek Brown.
Brown circled around the outside and when he fanned on his first shot it opened up the legs of Eric Szudor which allowed Brown to slide the puck through his legs to tie the game 1-1.
Szudor was strong in net for the Barons, bouncing back after allowing seven goals Thursday in Spruce Grove and being pulled for the first time this season. The 20 year old netminder made 31 saves in picking up his 13th win and his biggest save may have been off a breakaway on PJ Marrocco.
The league’s leading scorer and reigning AJHL player of the week snuck in behind the MOB defence but couldn’t beat Szudor.
In the third period, Szudor robbed Brown in the slot and Nicholas Ormon on a rebound to keep the game tied.
The Barons pressed on a late powerplay and Silvestre tried his best to match his counterpart at the other end of the rink by robbing Conley on a one-timer.
The MOB would get another powerplay opportunity and this time they would make the Pontiacs pay. Shane Fraser created a turnover in the Yaks zone and the puck came up to JC Thivierge who ripped a shot that bounced off the shoulder of Silvestre right to Oszytko who buried his 13th goal of the year and second game winning goal as a Baron.
“In the third period, I think two or three times they (the Pontiacs) just gave away pucks when they felt pressure and I thought our guys did a good job on capitalizing on that,” said Keca of his team’s forecheck.
With an assist on the goal, Thivierge extended his assist streak to five games and now sits second in defenceman scoring with 19 points in 23 games played.
“The thing that we appreciate is JC is such a quality individual, he’s really taken it upon himself to be a leader,” said Keca of Thivierge who is in his second season with the MOB. “He’s probably the most vocal guy we have on the team, he helps out the younger guys and he’s committed himself to the off-ice training as well.”
After playing nine of their last 11 games on the road, the Barons will enjoy five straight games at home beginning Friday when the host the Drayton Valley Thunder.
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