The Oil Barons wrapped up 2023 by splitting a home series against the Camrose Kodiaks. In front of excellent crowds at Centerfire Place, Fort McMurray took the first game 4-3 in a shootout, before falling 5-1 on Saturday.
There was plenty of offense in the first period on Friday when both teams combined for four goals. The MOB opened the scoring on the powerplay, when Carter Schmidt drove to the net and found Rylan Ringor on the backdoor for a tap in goal. However, Camrose responded 13 seconds later. Ludovik Tardif fired a shot that slipped in behind Gabe Gratton, and Levi Carter jammed home the loose puck to make it 1-1. Fort McMurray restored their advantage halfway through the opening frame. Brett Boucher scooped up the puck at the goal line and fired it to the top of the crease, where Nikolas Hoogendoorn tapped home his eighth goal of the season. But the Kodiaks tied things up once again before the end of the period. Lucas Lemieux charged to the net, where his shot was initially stopped by Gratton. However, Lemieux’s momentum pulled Gratton off the puck and Ty Hodge tapped home the rebound for his second goal of the year. Gratton left the game due to injury and he was replaced by Noah Nelson in the second. Early in the period, the Oil Barons scored their third lead of the game. Ethan Sundar picked up the puck in the left face-off circle, where he proceeded to dangle around a defender, before sniping the puck over the shoulder of Carson Ironside. It was Sundar’s fourth goal of the season. Fort McMurray appeared to be headed to a regulation victory, however, Camrose tied the game in the final minute of the third period. On a power-play of their own, Owen Lansing won an offensive zone face-off, and a point shot was deflected by Blake Green, making it a 3-3 game. Overtime solved nothing and the two teams headed to the skills competition, which turned into a battle of the goaltenders. Through four rounds of shooters, Ironside and Nelson were perfect, including a couple spectacular stops by Nelson. Lansing was stopped by Nelson in the fifth round, while Evan Arnold barely got the puck to cross over the goal line, giving Fort McMurray a Friday night victory.
With both their goalies out due to injury, the Oil Barons turned to a call up in net on Saturday. Hometown kid, Gage Roberts, made his AJHL debut in goal and he did not disappoint, turning aside 27 of 30 shots in a 5-1 loss. Fort McMurray opened the scoring with the lone goal of the first period. Sundar received a cross ice feed from Ryan Arnold and snapped home a power-play marker for his fifth goal of the year. However, the Kodiaks took over the game from the second period on, despite Roberts making some standout saves to keep his team in it. Camrose tied the game in the first minute of the second period. On the power-play, Tardif chopped home a bouncing puck that floated over the shoulder of Roberts for his 11th goal of the season. The Kodiaks scored again in the final minute of the second period. Garrett Thom found Blake Green sneaking in from the left face-off circle, and the Irvine, California product shoveled the puck through the five hole of Roberts, who got a large piece of it, but not quite enough. The Kodiaks found plenty of insurance in the third period. After Roberts made a standout save against Odin George, Tyden Redlick tucked home his first career AJHL goal to make it a 3-1 game. Camrose added two empty net goals to wrap up the scoring. Alexander Bryson got his fifth goal of the season, while Ethan Short made it 5-1 with a shorthanded empty netter.
The Oil Barons hit the road to start 2024 for three games in three nights. It starts on Thursday when they battle the Bonnyville Pontiacs. Puck drop is at 7pm at the RJ Lalonde Arena.