Fort McMurray dropped a pair of home games against the Drayton Valley Thunder. Friday saw a high scoring affair where both teams combined for 11 goals in a 6-5 loss, while the defenses tightened up in Saturday’s game, which Fort McMurray dropped 3-1.
The Oil Barons came out of the gate flying on Friday. Carter Schmidt opened the scoring 31 seconds in with his fourth goal of the season. It was the West Kelowna product’s first goal for the Oil Barons that was not on the power-play. Then 4:38 into the game, Keefe Gruener deflected a Demitri DiFlorio pass into the path of Simon Gaul, and the 19-year-old snapped the puck over the shoulder of Cameron Doucette to make it 2-0 Fort McMurray. Drayton Valley battled back in the first period. Ty Gordon found himself with tons of time and space and he tucked the puck around Noah Nelson to make it a 2-1 game. Then with 10 seconds remaining in the period, Ryan Neumann tied the game at 2-2 after a mad scramble in Fort McMurray’s crease. Fort McMurray restored their lead early in the second period. Schmidt picked out Vincent Lamanna in front of the net, and despite being stopped once, the Sturgeon County product jammed home the rebound to make it 3-2 Oil Barons. The Thunder responded. Brody Spencer-Ha picked up a loose puck and stormed up the ice shorthanded, before beating Nelson to make it 3-3. Drayton Valley then found their first lead of the game late in the second period. Nelson stopped the original shot from Turner McIntyre, but following up the play was Adam Grenier who poked home the rebound making it 4-3 Thunder. Again the Oil Barons found a goal early in a period. Rylan Ringor received a pass from Chad Lebeau and stepped in on Doucette, picking the top corner to tie the game at 4-4. However, Drayton Valley restored their lead shortly afterwards on the power-play. Nelson turned aside a Sammy May point shot, only for Grenier to bat the rebound out of mid-air for his second goal of the game. The Thunder found some insurance a couple minutes later. William Christian picked out Luke Roberts entering Fort McMurray’s zone, and the defenseman snapped the puck past Nelson making it 6-4 Drayton Valley. The Oil Barons pushed back. On a power-play of their own, a point shot from Noah Heinrich was stopped by Doucette, but the rebound slid to Gaul who snapped home his second of the game bringing the Oil Barons within one. Fort McMurray pressed for the equalizer, but they couldn’t solve Doucette one more time, and Drayton Valley took the first game 6-5.
Saturday was the Chazz Nixon show. In his first game back from suspension, the Oshawa, Ontario product stopped 38 of 39 Oil Barons shots, including some difficult chances, to secure Drayton Valley’s second straight victory over Fort McMurray. The Mob had Drayton Valley’s net under siege in the first period, putting up 13 shots while only surrendering 5, however, Nixon had an answer for every effort, including a spectacular glove save on Anthony Campbell in the dying stages of the first period. Fort McMurray finally solved Nixon in the second period. Ringor found Gruener in the slot, who’s shot was padded aside, only for Gaul to snap home the rebound for his team leading 11th goal of the season, giving Fort McMurray a 1-0 lead. The Oil Barons continued to fire shots on Nixon trying to extend their lead, but again they couldn’t solve the Thunder goaltender. Drayton Valley took advantage of a couple of bounces late in the second period. Off a face-off win, Grant Fuchsen’s one-timer was kicked aside by Gabe Gratton, only for Neumann to steer home the rebound, tying the game at 1-1. Then on the power-play, Gordon threw the puck in Fort McMurray’s crease, where it deflected off of Kurt Gurkan past a surprised Gratton. Gurkan extended Drayton Valley’s lead early in the third period. Neumann’s original shot was stopped by Gratton, only for Gurkan to find the loose puck first, stuffing home his second goal of the game, making it 3-1 Thunder. The Oil Barons turned up the pressure on Drayton Valley, only giving up one shot on goal the rest of the way. Despite shoveling multiple shots on Nixon, they couldn’t find the back of the net, falling 3-1 on home ice.
The Oil Barons will be back in action on Thursday and Friday when they hit the road. Thursday they will take on the Whitecourt Wolverines for the first time this season, while they battle Drayton Valley on the road on Friday. Both games will start at 7pm and you can catch all the action on Home Hardware’s Oil Barons Hockey on the MOB Radio Network.