Against the one of the AJHL’s most potent offensive groups the Fort McMurray Oil Barons put forth one of their best defensive efforts of the season to open 2016 on Saturday night at Whitecourt’s Scott Safety Centre.
The Wolverines scored 157 goals in just 37 games ahead of their 2-1 victory over the MOB Saturday. They’d finish Saturday with 159 on the year thanks to a Joseph Nardi game-winning-goal with only 5:16 remaining in the third period.
“The effort from everybody was great, I thought that we did a good job of trying to clog up our house in our own defensive zone,” said Oil Barons Head Coach Tom Keca on the ROCK 97.9 post-game show. “I thought we did a good job of keeping them to the outside, when you keep the highest scoring team in the Alberta Junior Hockey League to two goals I think that that’s a good thing.”
Shorthanded by two men due to injuries to Jordan Steenbergen, Damon Porter and Shane Fraser, the Oil Barons had just 16 skaters; 11 forwards and five defenceman on the ice in the loss but kept pace with the AJHL’s fourth best squad.
Whitecourt’s Frederic Letourneau opened the scoring after a goal-free first period just 1:36 into the second frame.
Cole Todd tied the game just minutes later at 5:11. It was his seventh of the season notched off a give-and-go with line mate Ben Sharf following a turnover forced by the American pivot.
“To get that goal early in the second period where some guys are probably thinking here comes number two and number three, we answered right back. Four minutes later we tied it up,” said Keca, noting the new found fight in his squad over the last month.
Todd – Quietly Brilliant
The goal was Todd’s tenth point in his last nine games as the 20-year-old veteran is quietly becoming a standout player in the league.
“He’s [Todd] been our best player, versatile enough where he plays the back-end on our power-play. He plays the game the right way, […] he can play centre, he can play wing, he kills penalties, he does power-play for us. He’s a great kid on and off the ice.”
The match remained tied until late in the third when Nardi potted the game-winning-goal off a rebound that originated off a Dondre Watson shot from the slot.
Another Chance for an Affiliated Player
Jarrod Isley, a 1998-born defenceman made his AJHL debut Saturday giving Keca a fifth blue-liner to work with. The Grande Prairie native is a childhood friend of MOB forward Brett Edwards and is in his first season with the AAA Storm.
“He [Isley] played extremely well, I thought that he kept the game extremely simple. Jarrod did an outstanding job and he’ll get an opportunity to play again [Sunday].”
Special Teams and Goaltenders
Neither team converted on the power-play with the Oil Barons missing out on four opportunities, Whitecourt couldn’t convert on its three power-plays.
Ravi Dattani was customarily excellent again, although the shot count stood at 36, most of his 34 saves were made from outside the “house” as Keca likes to call it as his teammates did a good job of boxing out the Wolverines.
Tanner McCorriston was beaten just once on 19 shots in his eighteenth victory of the season.
“It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t get points because I thought that we were deserving but this is an effort that if we told our guys that if we come out with the same effort [Sunday] we’ll be successful,” said Keca.
The two teams meet again at the Scott Safety Centre in Whitecourt on Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. You can listen to the game live on ROCK 97.9 starting with the pre-game show at 2:15 p.m.
Article courtesy of mymcmurray.com.
Photo taken on November 20, 2015 at the Casman Centre by Dan Lines.