Fort McMurray took three out of a possible six points on the road, as they played three games in three days in the Calgary area. With the results, the Oil Barons moved into a playoff spot, two points ahead of the Camrose Kodiaks.
The MOB opened the road trip in style with their first win in 11 attempts on a Friday night, a 5-2 victory over the Canmore Eagles. Jason Huang opened the scoring early. Off a scrambled face-off, Huang scooped up the puck from underneath Carter Schmidt, stepped to the middle of the ice and wired his shot top corner to make it 1-0 Oil Barons. Canmore equalized the game on a late first period power-play goal. Logan Ziegler let go a wrist shot from the blue-line that beat a screened Gabe Gratton for his 12th goal of the year. Twice the Oil Barons thought they restored their lead only to have the officials call off a pair of goals, one late in the first period and one early in the second. However, Fort McMurray’s power-play took over the game in the second period. Ethan Sundar converted on a dazzling move for his third goal of the season to make it 2-1 MOB. A pretty passing play by the Oil Barons that finished with Rylan Ringor setting up Schmidt for a snipe made it a 3-1 game. Then Evan Arnold jammed the puck home from the side of the net to make it 4-1 Fort McMurray, with all three goals coming on the man advantage. Canmore pressed in the third period and got one goal back. A long wrist shot by Keston Beagle beat Noah Nelson (who entered the game to relieve Gratton). The 4-2 goal was Beagle’s first career AJHL goal. However, the Oil Barons sealed the game courtesy of an empty net goal by Ryan Arnold, his fourth tally of the season.
Despite a solid opening 10 minutes in Okotoks, the Oil Barons did not have an answer for the Oilers on Saturday night. Okotoks scored five goals before the Oil Barons could reply. Brett Huxley and Hunter Sawka each had markers in the first period to make it 2-0. Then in the second period, the Oilers received scoring from Jack Silverberg, Jackson Rowland and Jagger Tapper to make it a 5-0 game. Noah Nelson did everything he could to keep his team in the game, including a pair of highlight reel saves in the second period on Dean Spak and Connor Gourley. Dylan Bidyk found a reply in the dying seconds of the middle frame. Set up by Evan Arnold, Bidyk unleashed a rocket from the blue-line past an unsuspecting Mikael Kingo for his first goal as an Oil Baron and his third of the season. The third period was evenly played between the two teams, despite the scoreline being well out of reach. Okotoks got one more goal late in the frame, when Brennan Hocher cashed in with his first career AJHL marker, bringing the final score to 6-1 Oilers.
On Sunday, Fort McMurray found a way to scrap out a point despite being in a first period deficit against the Calgary Canucks. Ben Binder Nord opened the scoring for Calgary with his first goal in the AJHL, catching the Oil Barons by surprise. Then on a 5-on-3 power-play, Ty Hipkin wired home a one-timer to extend the Canucks lead to 2-0. Fort McMurray came close to trimming the Canucks lead in the second period, however, a Simon Diaz shot banked off the post, keeping the Oil Barons down by two goals. However, the MOB started a comeback in the third period. Simon Gaul scored his team leading 12th goal of the season to snap a seven goal pointless drought, finishing off a well executed 2-on-2 with Ethan Sundar. Then with 4:31 remaining in the game, Fort McMurray got a little luck on their side. While on the power-play, Gaul pushed a pass in front of Calgary’s net, where it bounced off a defender and past a surprised Julien Molinaro to tie the game at 2-2. Overtime solved nothing, despite Fort McMurray having a late power-play, which saw them fire five shots on Molinaro, and this game went to a shootout. In the skills competition, after the goalies stopped each of the first two shooters they faced, the goals started to rain down. The Oil Barons received shootout goals from Gaul, Schmidt and Evan Arnold. But it wasn’t enough as Calgary got markers from Ben Buckley, Gavin Garland, Gavin Schmidt and the game winner from Julien Gervais.
Fort McMurray returns home for their final three games at Centerfire Place before the Christmas break. It starts on Thursday against the Blackfalds Bulldogs, before they welcome the Olds Grizzlys on Saturday and Sunday.
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