By Robert Murray, Fort McMurray Today
Kevin Miller had a goal and an assist while Tanner Jaillet made 21 saves as the Fort McMurray Oil Barons opened up the Alberta Junior Hockey League Gas Drive Cup Playoffs with a 4-1 victory over the Drayton Valley Thunder.
“We did a lot of good things,” said MOB head coach Gord Thibodeau. “I thought in the first period we really were crisp moving the puck. Defensively when you only give up 20 shots that’s pretty good. Overall, a solid game but it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t come back with a better effort tomorrow.”
Mitchell Byrne scored the opening goal of the game just 2:47 into the first period after his shot beat Thunder goaltender Marc-Olivier Daigle over the shoulder.
Less than ten minutes later, Brennan Saulnier pounced on a defensive turnover and deked out Daigle to double the Oil Barons' lead. The MOB would lead the Thunder 2-0 after the first period.
The Oil Barons kept the pressure on the Thunder in the second period, scoring less than two minutes into the frame after the puck ricocheted between a few different players before ending up on Miller’s stick where it was promptly deposited into the back of the net.
The Thunder got themselves back in the game just under six minutes later as Trevor Poirier’s shot beat a screened Jaillet on the power play to cut the lead to two.
That would be all for the Thunder, and Barons captain Jetlan Houcher lit the lamp with under three minutes to play in the second. Houcher's goal was his first since Feb. 15 and gave the Barons a three goal lead. Neither team scored in the third period, so 4-1 would be the final score. In total, nine different members of the MOB recorded at least a point in the victory.
Thibodeau said that his starting goaltender didn’t have to be stellar tonight but that for the opportunities the Thunder did get, Jaillet was there when he needed to be.
The MOB’s power play, which struggled to produce near the end of the regular season, scored twice on three opportunities Thursday night.
Before the game former Oil Barons head coach and current vice president of hockey operations for the AJHL, Fran Gow was on hand to present Tanner Jaillet with his Friends of Alberta Junior Hockey League Trophy as the league’s top goaltender. Gow also present Jaillet and backup Jesse Gordichuk with their trophy as the 2013-14 Reebok/CCM Top Team Goaltenders Award.
Award photos by Dan Lines
The Fort McMurray Oil Barons and Drayton Valley Thunder meet for game two on Friday night at the Casman Centre at 8 p.m. The Oil Barons lead the best of five series 1-0.
Main photo credit: Robert Murray/Fort McMurray Today