If Sunday afternoon’s game between the Fort McMurray Oil Barons (37-10-3) and Whitecourt Wolverines (35-11-6) was any indication of what to expect come playoffs then we are in for a real treat.
The game had every feel of a playoff game as both teams knew how important the two points up for grabs were coming into the game.
The teams battled to the bitter end with Ryan Cox scoring 2:59 into overtime to give the MOB a 3-2 win.
“That was gutsy,” said MOB head coach Tom Keca. “You sit there and you go through what these kids go through with the amount of injuries that we’ve had but I’ll tell you as a coach, I’ve never been prouder to stand behind a group on the bench then I was today.”
The Wolverines came out flying and had several good scoring chances in the game’s opening minutes.
The MOB pushed back but it would be the Wolverines who opened the scoring. Ryan Grant crossed the MOB blueline and dropped the puck to Mitch Lipon who stepped into a shot at the top of the face-off circle and blasted it past the glove of Eric Szudor.
The Barons would tie the game 13:40 into the second period when Matteo Aiello finished off a dish from Stefan Wood at the side of the goal. Shane Fraser won the puck along the boards and got it to Brandon Ralph. The captain spotted Wood on the far side and as Wood skated in he fed Aiello who tapped home his seventh goal of the year.
“There was just no give. We had every reason to have an off night and this group of fine young men continue to amaze us with their resiliency, with their willingness to do whatever it takes.” Said Keca of his team who showed no quit throughout the game.
The MOB would take a 2-1 lead late in the third period when Dylan Rauh hammered a low hard shot past Pierce Diamond with 3:44 left. Ryan Cox and Jack Hamly drew the assists on Rauh’s fourth goal of the season.
The Wolverines continued to pepper Szudor who made 12 saves in the third period and stopped 34 in the game in picking up his fourth straight win.
A late penalty by the MOB would give the Wolverines a six on four advantage. Moving the puck around the outside it eventually came to Lipon who fired a shot that beat Szudor through the five hole to tie the game with 36.7 seconds left.
The teams traded chances in overtime before Curtis Roach and Cox broke up ice on a two on one. Roach slid a pass to Cox who made no mistake, burying his 18th goal on the short side on Diamond.
“It was a great play in overtime, it was a two on one and Roach got it over and there’s probably no one else on our team that you’d rather have the puck on their stick then Cox and that was a huge goal for us,” said Keca.
“This was the best game that I’ve been a part of in a very long time. It had all of the feel of a game seven playoff.”
With the win the MOB are now 14-0-2 in their last 16 games and have opened up a three point lead on the Wolverines for first place in the North Division and still hold a game in hand. The win also puts the MOB 7 points up on the surging Spruce Grove Saints who the MOB will see a final time on the last weekend of the season.
The Wolverines and MOB will continue to battle it out as they meet two more times before the season is done. The MOB will host the Wolverines Thursday night at the Casman Centre with puck drop at 7:30 p.m.
The Barons will finish off the home portion of their schedule with a game Saturday vs Olds and Monday afternoon against Sherwood Park.
Written by: Taylor Pope, mymcmurray.com.
Photographer: Dan Lines
Coach Keca recaps today's big win on the Country 93.3 post game show.