The Fort McMurray Oil Barons are red hot to start the 2016-17 AJHL season. The MOB won back to back games at home for the second time this season and improved to 4-1-0 with a 5-0 win Saturday night over the Lloydminster Bobcats.
The Bobcats (0-5-0) came to town still searching for their first win of the year after racking up 44 a year ago. It is a much different Lloydminster team with just one returning player and 19 rookies on this year’s roster.
The MOB knew that you can never take a night off in the AJHL and stormed out of the gate, outshooting the Bobcats 16-1 in the first period and led 2-0 after one period.
“The Lloydminster Bobcats are a dangerous team because they’re looking for that first win so for us to come out in the first period and score the first couple goals, I thought was good and we got better as the game wore on,” said Head Coach Tom Keca on his team’s performance.
The Barons struck first when a Curtis Roach point shot found the top corner over the glove hand of a screened Jeremy Kelleway. The goal was Roach’s first as an Oil Barons after coming over in a pre-season trade from Flin Flon.
The MOB would double their lead mid-way through the period, Damon Porter drove hard to the net and deposited a rebound off a Nicholas Leeseberg shot. The goal extended Porter’s point streak to five games and was his third of the year.
The physical play picked up in the second period when Mason Martin and Tanner Brewster dropped the gloves just 2:25 into the period. Martin who hails from Arlington, Texas was playing in his first game of the year and showed the type of toughness Tom Keca knew he was getting when he invited the import to a training camp in Edmonton this summer.
“If that’s what Marty (Martin) has to do, then that’s what Marty’s going to do. He’s a team first player, wants to please and the guys love him for that and it was good for him to get into some action,” said Keca. “I know he’s been chomping to get in, we were waiting on some paper work for him and he’ll do anything for the team so good on him.”
The lone goal in the frame came at 18:25 when JC Thivierge jumped into the rush. His first shot was stopped but he picked up his own rebound in the slot and slid a low shot past a helpless Kelleway.
“Roach floats that one in and finds the top shelf, JC (Thivierge) jumps in and the game of hockey is changing where you almost have to attack with four guys and when you have players like a Taner Miller who likes to join in on the rush it’s a win for you because you’re going to create some odd man rushes and it also forces your forwards to be more accountable,” said Keca on giving his defence the green light to jump into the rush.
The MOB would add to their lead on a powerplay in the third. Roach fed Jack Hamly on a cross ice back door pass, Hamly made no mistake, slipping the puck through the legs of Kelleway for his second goal in as many games.
It would then be another Texan making an impact late when Ben Allen jumped on a rebound in front of the Bobcats goal for his first of the season to give the Barons a 5-0 lead.
“Team toughness is when you know you’re going to get slashed and you’re still willing to get to those areas and when our smaller players are willing to go to those areas like Ben Allen who scores his first tonight, that’s a good sign. We’ve got guys that are buying in and willing to pay the price,” said Keca of his team’s willingness to head to the front of the net.
Eric Szudor picked up his second shutout of the season, stopping all 16 shots that came his way.
“Eric has the potential to be a big time goalie, he’s only 19 and he’s proving already. We rely a lot on him and when a goaltender can make tough saves look easy, you know that’s a sign of a good goaltender,” said Keca.
Next up for the MOB is a rematch with the Bonnyville Pontiacs who beat the Barons 5-2 on Tuesday. Puck drop is set for 7:30p.m. on Wednesday at the Casman Centre. Pre-game show gets underway at 7:15p.m. with Taylor Pope on Country 93.3
Written by: Taylor Pope, mymcmurray.com.
Head Coach and General Manager Tom Keca shares his post game thoughts.