It wasn’t the prettiest win but the Fort McMurray Oil Barons will take it none the less as they find themselves up 1-0 in the North Division Final after a 3-2 win Friday night over the Whitecourt Wolverines.
The MOB built a 3-0 lead but allowed the Wolverines to hang around, chipping away and getting within a goal to put a scare in the 1,606 fans who packed the Casman Centre.
“To draw first blood was huge but I really didn’t like the way we played,” said MOB head coach Tom Keca on his team’s performance. “I thought in the third period we sat back way too much, turned pucks over in the neutral zone which we can’t do against that team.”
The MOB came into the game after a seven day layoff after knocking out the Bonnyville Pontiacs in 5 games in the second round while the Wolverines had just wrapped up a hard fought seven game series with the Spruce Grove Saints on Tuesday.
It didn’t take the Barons long to give their fans something to cheer about as Brett Edwards lit the lamp 3:39 into the game. Edwards picked up the puck in centre ice and chipped it past both Wolverine defencemen before ripping a shot past the blocker arm of Pierce Diamond for his first goal of the playoffs.
Undisciplined play by the Wolverines gave the MOB three powerplays in the first period, including a short 5 on 3 but the MOB weren’t able to muster much of anything as they fired just four shots on goal in the period.
In the second, the Barons powerplay finally broke through when Stefan Wood spotted Jackson McKinstry alone in the slot. MckInstry’s shot was robbed by the left pad of Diamond but the rebound fell right to Hayden Ursulak who slid a backhand shot into the open net.
“To be quite honest with you if we were to look at the whole series from game 1 to game 5, I thought that Hayden Ursulak was probably our best forward in the first series but no points so you feel bad for him,” said Keca with a grin. “They were a line that really was able to swing a lot of momentum in that first series with their puck possession and ability to cycle.”
The MOB took a 3-0 lead at the 14:19 mark when Toby Shattler hit Will Conley busting through centre ice. Conley used his explosive speed to blow past Colton Meekhof and fire a shot under the glove hand of Diamond for his 5th goal of the post season.
The Wolverines put a damper on the party 30 seconds later as Dawson Bruneski beat Eric Szudor up high off a Barons turnover in their own end.
“We score that third goal and now you’ve got an opportunity to take a strangle hold on the game and 30 seconds later we get beat off the half wall and now you give them life,” said Keca.
With 2:27 left in the period, Evan Tschumi drove towards the Oil Barons goal and bowled over Eric Szudor which drew a crowd. Tschumi is no stranger to stirring things up as the 19 year old racked up 197 penalty minutes in the regular season. Shattler jumped in to the aid of his goaltender but was quickly grabbed by the linesmen and after trying to wrestle free to get at Tschumi was issued a game misconduct.
In the third, the MOB sat back trying to hold on to their two goal lead. The Wolverines peppered Szudor with 20 shots and got one by him on a late powerplay when Justin Young found a loose puck in the slot and fired home his 8th goal of the playoffs.
That was as close as the Wolverines would get as the MOB survived the late scare to take Game 1.
“We have to be a little more physical, we have to manage the puck, we can’t turn it over because there’s no excuse,” said Keca on what he would like to see from his team in Game 2.
Game 2 goes Saturday night at the Casman Centre. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Written by: Taylor Pope, mymcmurray.com.
Tom Keca discusses Game 1 and looking forward to Game 2 on the Country 93.3 post game show.