The Whitecourt Wolverines jumped out to a 1-0 opening round series lead over the Fort McMurray Oil Barons with a 4-3 win at the Scott Safety Centre Thursday night.
Not only did the MOB fall behind the eight-ball in the best-of-five series, the club also lost its top defenceman in Jordan Steenbergen just after the opening face-off.
“For us to lose another defenceman two seconds into the game, play the first period with four [defenceman] and then ask Shane Fraser to come back and play defence, and to still have chances at the end to prolong this game is just a testament to the character we have,” said Oil Barons Head Coach Tom Keca on the ROCK 97.9 post-game show.
Steenbergen stood up to take a hit from Linden Penner and ended up buckling over onto the same knee he injured at the beginning of the year, the prognosis on the 19-year-old will see him out of the lineup for 4-6 weeks.
While Whitecourt dominated play in the first Hayden Ursulak snapped a 17-game goalless drought to open the scoring late in the opening frame. It took no more than 57 seconds for the Wolverines to respond and tie the game at one-a-piece thanks to a goal from Matt Gervais.
The Wolverines would notch two more early in the second to take a 3-1 lead thanks to a power-play goal from Hubert Delisle at 1:14 and a five-on-five marker from Eric Krienke at 3:45. Will Conley a short-handed goal with 24 seconds left to send Whitecourt to their dressing room with a 3-2 lead through fourty minutes.
In the third Matt Gervais added an insurance goal at 3:50, his second of the game wove its way through traffic and past Forbes Ploszaj to give his club a two-goal cushion. That is until Jackson McKinstry notched a power-play goal off the hard work of Dylan Rauh to pull the MOB within a goal. Although that’s as close as they would get as the pressure with an empty net led to some good chances but no equalizer on this night.
Ploszaj made 41 saves on 45 shots against while Tanner McCorriston pushed aside 18 of 21 shots for Whitecourt.
A very inexperienced defence corps managed to step up and keep the Whitecourt attack to the outside for most of the night. With the injury to Steenbergen the MOB have just 81 games of AJHL experience left on the back end in Tanner Miller, Austin Cameron, Jarrod Isley and Jayden Pannu.
“I don’t want anybody to interpret this the wrong way but you’re asking a ton from Jarrod Isley and Jayden Pannu, two midget guys that are playing against one of the top ranked teams in the country in the first game of the playoffs and they did just a phenomenal job,” said Keca.
The Oil Barons will spend part of the day Friday scrambling to try and find an affiliate player to plug an ever growing hole on the blue-line, but even the MOB’s call-ups have been injury plagued, including former McMurrayite Benjamin Orde who just recently suffered a foot injury.
“We’ll make some adjustments and hopefully we get the same effort because if we get this effort throughout the series I don’t care what the shot clock says we’ll have some success.”
Game two is scheduled for Friday night in Whitecourt with a 7:30 p.m. puck-drop. You can catch the game live on ROCK 97.9 beginning with the pre-game show at 7:15 p.m.
Article courtesy of mymcmurray.com.
Photo taken on January 16, 2016 at the Casman Centre by Dan Lines.