The Fort McMurray Oil Barons were led by four goals by their defencemen and a stellar performance in goal once again by Eric Szudor as they blanked the Drumheller Dragons 4-0 Friday night at the Casman Centre.
JC Thivierge scored a pair of second period goals while Taner Miller and Domenico Argento chipped in singles to produce all the offence the MOB (24-4-2) would need to win their sixth straight and and go a perfect 5-5 on their homestand.
“I thought it was excellent. I loved the compete level of our players, loved the fact that we moved our feet, probably the two most consistent games that we’ve played this year especially at home so for us to shutdown a very talented Drumheller group speaks volumes for the group that we have,” said MOB Head Coach Tom Keca on his team’s performance.
The MOB were left without one of their top scorers to begin the game as Merritt Oszytko was handed a four game suspension for a hit to the head in Thursday’s game against Lloydminster. There was no penalty on the play but a review of the hit was submitted by the Bobcats after the game.
“Do I agree with it? Doesn’t matter what I think, it’s unfortunate. The facts are that Merritt unfortunately maybe lifted his feet when he made the hit,” said Keca of the suspension. “First and foremost you hope there wasn’t an injury on the play and that the player is okay. Your hands are tied a little bit with the junior A supplement – now I thought there were other hits over the course of the game that warranted more than a four game suspension if that is a four game but at the end of the day if you don’t want to get suspended then don’t leave your feet.”
With Oszytko already out, the Barons were dealt another blow when leading scorer Will Conley left the game four minutes in after getting hit along the boards and didn’t return.
The Dragons (17-12-2) tried to take advantage and buzzed around the MOB goal but were unable to break the deadlock. Former Oil Baron Brett Edwards had several chances throughout the night but couldn’t find a way to solve Eric Szudor.
The MOB struck 13:56 into the first period when Reed Morison spotted Nicholas Leeseberg driving the Dragon goal. Leeseberg’s shot was stopped by Hunter Virostek but the rebound popped right to Taner Miller who banged home his 6th goal of the year.
The Barons powerplay would double up their lead late in the frame when Domenico Argento fired a puck on goal from the side wall that fooled Virostek for his first goal as Oil Baron.
In the second period it would be another two Barons powerplays that would lead to a pair of goals from JC Thivierge. The first was just as the powerplay ended and Thivierge was allowed to walk in and rip a shot past Virostek 2:26 into the period. That goal would spell the end of Virostek’s night as he allowed three goals on 15 shots.
In came Dane Dow and Thivierge would find a way to beat him while on a five-on-three in similar fashion to his first goal. The 20 year old defenceman now has five goals on the year and sits second in defencemen scoring with 25 points in 28 games this season.
“We want to be a team that at the right time will attack with four players because it forces the other team to backcheck a little harder and we do keep track of how many goals come from our backend so this is a positive sign,” said Keca on getting four goals from his blueline.
The Barons shutdown the Dragons attack the rest of the way with Eric Szudor making 39 saves in picking up his second shutout of the year.
“Loved the third period we really tightened down and shut them down. We didn’t really give them a ton of scoring chances and for us the tell tale sign is with a minute and a half left with a 4-0 lead, we’ve got guys that are willing to block shots and that tells you as a coach – okay, we’re starting to get it a little bit,” said Keca.
The Barons will head to Calgary next week for a final road trip before the Christmas break. They will take on the Mustangs Friday, the Brooks Bandits Saturday and the Canucks on Sunday.
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