The Oil Barons split a weekend home series against the Calgary Canucks. On Friday, former Oil Baron Chris Kobelka had a goal and two assists to lead the Canucks to a 5-2 victory, while Saturday saw Evan Arnold score with less than a minute to go en route to a 2-1 win for Fort McMurray.
Friday’s game opened with tons of physical play from both teams. Early on, Nik Hoogendoorn hammered Kobelka. However, a Liam Rodman penalty late in the first period led to the opening goal. Gavin Schmidt pulled the puck around a defenceman and beat Gabe Gratton through the five hole, giving Calgary a 1-0 lead. The Oil Barons thought they tied the game on a power-play goal of their own in the second period. Keefe Gruener saw his shot float over the shoulder of Julian Molinaro, only for the goal to be waved off by the referees due to the net being dislodged. Calgary took advantage of the fortunate break to increase their lead. Once again on the power-play, Kobelka fired a shot off the post and Schmidt poked home the rebound for his second goal of the game. A couple minutes later, Bowden Singleton made it 3-0 Calgary as his shot fooled Gratton for the Canucks captain’s fourth goal of the season. The Oil Barons clawed their way back into the game before the end of the second period. Rylan Ringor steered a pass in front of Calgary’s net where Simon Gaul fired home his fifth goal of the season, making it a 3-1 game. Then the Oil Barons capitalized on a hometown bounce. A Noah Heinrich dump in hit the Zamboni door, launching the puck into Molinaro’s crease, where Ringor poked it past the surprised goaltender making it 3-2. Fort McMurray pressed for an equalizer in the third period, but Molinaro stood his ground for the Canucks, including some good saves on an Oil Barons power-play early in the frame. Kobelka scored a backbreaker off an offensive zone faceoff and the Canucks added an empty netter, ending Fort McMurray’s hopes of a comeback.
The physical play continued into Saturday’s game. Both teams delivered heavy body checks to each other, including Ethan King flattening Bowden Singleton along the boards. The scoring didn’t open until early in the second period. Noah Heinrich fed Carter Schmidt a pass on the power-play, and the West Kelowna product stepped into the left faceoff circle where he wired a shot past a screened Molinaro. The 1-0 goal was Schmidt’s third marker of the season. The Canucks thought they tied up the game in the second period, however, Noah Nelson robbed Julien Gervais with a right pad save, one of 28 he made in the victory. Calgary did find the tying goal early in the third period. On the power-play, Kobelka sped his way into the offensive zone where he lifted a shot on goal that Nelson would have liked to have back, making it a 1-1 game. Both teams had their chances through the third period, but the goaltenders continued their strong play, matching each other save for save. Then, with overtime beckoning, the Oil Barons found a breakthrough. Heinrich scooped up the puck at the right-hand point, fired a shot which was stopped by Molinaro, and Evan Arnold steered home the rebound with 31.4 seconds to go giving Fort McMurray a late 2-1 lead. The marker snapped Arnold’s 10 game goalless drought and stood up as the game winner.
Fort McMurray will hit the road for three games in three days through Central Alberta. They will visit the Olds Grizzlys for the teams’ second meeting of the season on Friday. Puck drop is at 7pm.