AUDIO: Hear head coach Gord Thibodeau's post-weekend thoughts:
AUDIO: Hear from rookie forward Scott Pooley after his two-point night:
The Fort McMurray Oil Barons split their opening series of 2012-13 with the Drayton Valley Thunder with two high-intensity home games.
The MOB fell 4-3 in their home opener before rebounding for a 4-2 win over D.V. on Saturday night.
“It was an improvement, but there's still a lot of things I didn't like about tonight's game,” said head coach and G.M. Gord Thibodeau after the win. “Our compete level was better, our physicality was better, our intelligence wasn't a whole lot better than yesterday.”
“They're small steps at this stage, but they're at least steps forward.”
The Barons stormed back from a 3-0 deficit in the home opener to tie the game on Brett Printz's first of the year. That followed a powerplay goal by captain Brock Maschmeyer and the first of the year for Kevin Lacroix.
But in the end, a second-chance opportunity for Shane Brolly off of a stellar save by MOB netminder Tanner Jaillet in the third period stood up as the winner.
On Saturday, the Thunder again opened the scoring before Adam Durkee (Lafayette, CO) tied it with his first junior A goal on a net-front deflection from Harry Hendrix (Calgary, AB).
That later led to a highlight-reel penalty shot goal by fellow rookie Scott Pooley (Granger, IN) to give the MOB a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
“The plan was to shoot, actually. I came down and pump faked and if he didn't bite I was going to shoot it, but he went down, so I didn't have enough room.”
The play that led to the penalty shot saw Pooley earn a breakaway, and despite being clearly held up by a Drayton defender, the rookie skater nonetheless managed a great point-blank shot that required a desperation save from DV goaltender Mitch Maraschiello.
“I feel like we're gaining more confidence,” said Pooley of himself and the large rookie contingent on the team. “We're coming together as a team more. I think it's starting to slow down for us finally; we're adjusting to the pace.”
His head coach didn't disagree.
“I just thought the rookies were a little better with their compete level. It's an adjustment; you can play all the exhibition that you want; when you get to the regular season, guys are coming at you harder.”
Two near-capacity crowds at the Casman Centre cranked up the decibel level on several occasions on the weekend; not just for goals but also for 6 fights between the two games – four of them on Saturday.
Thibodeau wasn't impressed with how the officiating crew allowed the game to devolve so rapidly.
“It's frustrating because it's hard to play the game; this should've been taken care of in the first game,” he said. “If the ref had given misconducts in these scrums, then you wouldn't have this crap.”
Nonetheless, rookies Adam Wilcox and Matt Purmal earned clear decisions in their tilts with Drayton Valley scrappers Austin Yadlowski and Neil Tarnasky, respectively.
The Barons now get set for another home game on Wednesday night as the Bonnyville Pontiacs come to town.
Puck drop is at 7:30.