Fort McMurray Today
Three power play goals, capped off by Ryan Bloom’s 19th goal of the season, propelled the Fort McMurray Oil Barons to a 3-2 victory over the Whitecourt Wolverines on Saturday night at the Casman Centre.
The MOB found themselves in a 2-1 hole after the first period but clawed back, scoring twice in the first ten minutes of the second to remain perfect at home and perfect in 2014.
“I didn’t think we played a bad first,” said Oil Barons head coach Gord Thibodeau.
“Defensively (we were) a little lackadaisical around the net but overall I thought we played a pretty good first and with a bit of luck should’ve probably buried a few more. Overall pretty happy with the effort. We were fatigued. I think the short lineup is starting to catch up to us a little bit.”
The game started out as most games at the Casman Centre have all season. The Barons pressed the attack early on, holding the Wolverines without a shot for almost the first six minutes of the game.
The game would change though with the flick of a shot as the MOB surrendered the first shot of the game and the game’s first goal as Brandon Switzer beat Tanner Jaillet to put the Wolverines up 1-0 under six minutes in.
Just minutes later, with Brodyn Nielsen in the box for roughing, the Oil Barons power play went to work. Just over a minute later, after taking a cross ice feed from Adam Durkee, team captain Jetlan Houcher out waited Wolverines goaltender MacEngel and slipped it past the sprawled net minder for his 11th power play goal and 26th of the season, knotting the game at one a piece.
Almost exactly four minutes later, after it seemed the Barons were well on their way to shifting the momentum in their favour, Joel Kocur managed to fire the puck past Jaillet, putting the MOB in a one goal hole again.
The second period began with the MOB still trailing by a goal, their home winning streak of 20 games on the line.
Adam Durkee, who coming into the game had five goals and nine points in his last seven games, continued to regain his early-season form. Given the opportunity to shoot less than half a minute into the first period, Durkee set up below the left circle and managed to find the back of the net past Engel.
On this night in particular, it was Bloom’s chance to play hero.
After benefitting from Bloom’s passes all season long, Houcher repaid Bloom, sending a crisp pass to the forward who banged it in for his 19th goal of the campaign.
That would be all the offence the MOB would need as they put the finishing touches on their 21st straight victory at home this season.
Following the game, Houcher said it was a good team effort that allowed for the comeback.
“It was a good comeback. It was a good effort by everybody,” said Houcher.
“They had a few good scoring chances but we got it done. We got the win and that’s all that counts.”
Making his second straight start in a row, Tanner Jaillet was solid despite a shaky first period. Jaillet stopped 30 shots, including 26 in the final two periods and a penalty shot, to preserve the victory.
“I wouldn’t fault him but usually he snaps up a few more of those early rebounds,” said Thibodeau of his net minder.
“The puck was kind of laying around there but he was real good late in the game and seemed like he kind of found his game about mid-second period there.”
The power play marker by Houcher in the first period was his 11th of the year, which put him into a second place tie for power play goals in the league.
Bloom, meanwhile, picked up his team-leading 54th point of the season. The Calgary-born forward now has three goals and nine points in his last eight games.
In the standings, the MOB continue to keep pace with the Spruce Grove Saints. At 36-5-3, the Oil Barons sit a single point back of the Saints for first in the Alberta Junior Hockey League and North Division.
The Saints and Oil Barons meet next Friday at the Grant Fuhr Arena in Spruce Grove in a game that will go a long way in deciding first place.
The Fort McMurray Oil Barons are back in action on Thursday Jan. 23 when the MOB travel to Whitecourt to complete the season series with the Wolverines. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Photo credit: Ryan Murray/Fort McMurray Today