A 60 game AJHL season is long, even for clubs at the top of the standings. For a team as close to the bottom as you can be a 6-1 win for the Fort McMurray Oil Barons over the Sherwood Park Crusaders at the Casman Centre Saturday went a long way to breaking up the monotony of the gruelling schedule that’s been filled with many more losses than wins this year.
A Perfect Response
It was possibly the MOB’s best all-around effort of the season. After getting spanked by the same score and the same team the night previous, a very young MOB squad responded with ferocity on the forecheck, tough play between the whistles and a commitment to standing up for each other against a very physical Crusaders squad.
“We define team toughness not necessarily as having all these knuckle draggers that like to fight all the time, but team toughness is making sure you go to those areas, you’re taking hits, you get to the front of the net, you take a slash,” said Oil Barons Head Coach Tom Keca on the ROCK 97.9 post-game show. “I love the fact that we came out with a better effort, I love the fact that we didn’t back down – we stood up for one another.”
After a bit of a shellacking Friday when he allowed six goals on 28 shots, Eric Szudor was incredible Saturday night turning aside 31 of 32 shots faced. The lone goal followed a breakaway save that was accidentally knocked back in the net by Tanner Miller’s skate on the back check.
“He was obviously the star, it’s so easy now to sit there and say [Szudor] was great but I just thought our all-around team game was strong. We changed up our forecheck changed up our d-zone and the guys responded it was a great effort.”
It was Szudor’s very first AJHL victory.
The Oil Barons chased Sherwood Park’s starter Zach Dyment 34:02 into the game after he allowed three goals on seventeen shots, in relief Zac Klassen wasn’t much better seeing three go past the goal line on 14 shots.
While Szudor picked up his very first AJHL win, it was Austin Cameron’s first game in an Oil Barons uniform and the 18-year-old defenceman scored his first Junior ‘A’ goal in his debut with the blue and gold.
“I thought he was good, I thought he tried to keep it simple, he got frustrated on himself and that’s sometimes a good thing,” said Keca. “I thought that he came as advertised, moved the puck well, was strong in his own zone, scored a beautiful goal I thought that was one of probably the nicest passing plays we’ve had all year. “
Cameron’s marker came late in the second period to give his new club a 4-0 lead heading into the third. The ex-UFA Bison was acquired for a player development fee from the Kindersley Klippers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League Friday.
Goals, Goals, Goals
Shawn Weber opened the scoring 6:54 into the first with his first of two on the night; he’d bookend the scoring for the Oil Barons potting another 9:17 into the third on the power-play.
Cole Todd, Jordan Steenbergen, and Hayden Ursulak also scored for the MOB; Cole Chorney was credited with the lone goal for Sherwood Park.
Big Night for Conley, Todd, Weber
Will Conley had another strong night with three assists; he’s been nearly a point per game player with 11 points in 13 games since being acquired from Brooks in early December.
Shawn Weber’s two goals gave him five points in his last six. The 18-year-old sophomore has scored four goals over the six game span.
Cole Todd, while the target of certain abuse from Sherwood Park had another excellent game picking up a goal and two assists, the 20-year-old now has 14 points in his last 12 games and would be a great pickup for a team in the hunt for a championship.
The CJHL trade deadline looms at 7 p.m. for inter-league trades, while AJHL clubs can still deal within Alberta until 10 p.m.
“Obviously there are lots of phone calls going around a lot of guys kicking some tires and figuring out what they’re going to do,” said Keca. “Are we looking to do something? We obviously have room to make a move it’s going to be a move that we feel is going to better our hockey team.”
Keca might be in the market for another defenceman as Mitchell Torrens injured his hand during his second period fight with Luke Kempf.
The Oil Barons host the Camrose Kodiaks at the Casman Centre on Friday, Jan. 15 at 8 p.m.
Article courtesy of mymcmurray.com.
Photographer: Dan Lines