Fort McMurray took home three of a possible six points from a central Alberta road trip. The weekend began with a 5-2 loss to the Olds Grizzlys, followed by a 2-1 win over the Blackfalds Bulldogs, and capped off with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Camrose Kodiaks. Gabe Gratton was a star over the weekend stopping 86 of the 90 shots he faced over two games, while Simon Gaul, Evan Arnold and Vincent Lamanna led the offense with two points each.
Friday was not the start to the road trip the Oil Barons wanted. They were outshot in the first period 16-5 and were fortunate they were only down 1-0 thanks to spectacular goaltending from Noah Nelson. The lone goal of the period was a fluke bounce off an Oil Baron clearing attempt that surprised Nelson, and was credited to Greye Rampton. Olds received another hometown bounce in the second period. A deflection off a door in the corner boards ricocheted out to the Grizzlys, where Mitchell Patrick put home his first career AJHL goal, making it 2-0 Olds. The Grizzlys then made it 3-0 on a two man breakaway with Lucas Baxter tucking home the puck. The Grizzlys received another two man breakaway before the end of the second period, only for Nelson to rob his former teammate, Ryder Many Grey Horses. The Oil Barons showed life in the third period. Keefe Gruener fought off two defenders to get a shot on goal, which was followed up by Simon Gaul to make it a 3-1 game. Then halfway through the period on a power-play, Vincent Lamanna sniped home his first goal as an Oil Baron to cut the Olds lead to 3-2. Less than a minute later, however, Patrick forced a turnover and cashed in for his second goal of the game to make it 4-2. Patrick then finished off the hat trick with an empty net goal giving the Grizzlys a 5-2 victory.
On Saturday in Blackfalds, Gratton stopped 50 Bulldogs shots in his best performance of the season. The first period felt like deja vu from Friday night. Fort McMurray found themselves down badly on the shot clock, 17-3, but only down 1-0 on the scoreboard. The tone was set early in the game, when 90 seconds in, Liam Rodman hammered the league leading goal scorer Dakota MacIntosh at center ice. MacIntosh got his revenge on the score sheet, as he finished off a nice passing play to put the Bulldogs ahead. The score stayed the same through most of the game, however, the intensity increased as several scrums broke out through the game, including at the end of the second period. In the third, Gratton made his best save of the night to give his team a chance. Jayden Joly found himself wide open at the side of Fort McMurray’s net, and Gratton came across with the left pad to deny Joly, keeping it a 1-0 game. Then, with the goalie pulled and 1:13 remaining in the hockey game, the Oil Barons found the equalizer. Off a faceoff win, Carter Schmidt’s point shot was stopped by Ethan Morrow, and in a mad scramble in the crease, Evan Arnold knocked the puck in for his third goal of the season, tying the game for Fort McMurray. In overtime, Blackfalds thought they had the game winner, but Brendan Ross rang his shot off the post and the two teams went to a shootout. Gaul opened the scoring in the shootout, only for MacIntosh to immediately reply with a goal of his own. Both goaltenders stopped the next two rounds of shooters. Then Lamanna sniped home his shot in the fourth round and Gratton stopped Edward Moskowitz, giving the Oil Barons a 2-1 victory and snapping Blackfalds 11 game winning streak.
Fort McMurray got off to a better start on Sunday against Camrose, compared to the previous two games. Despite Ethan Short making it 1-0 Kodiaks about 90 seconds into the game, the Oil Barons outshot Camrose 6-3 in the first period. They also found the equalizer as Ethan Sundar picked out Gaul in behind the defense, and the Quebec product finished off his breakaway opportunity for his team leading seventh goal of the season. Both teams had their chances in the second period, but Gabe Gratton and Charlie Zolin were solid in between the pipes, and the 1-1 draw carried into the third period. With about six minutes to go, Fort McMurray earned their first lead of the game. After Chad Lebeau’s effort went over the net, Ryan Arnold scooped up the loose puck and jammed it home, snapping his 12 game goalless drought. However, the lead only lasted 50 seconds. Camrose, on an odd man rush, forced Gratton to make a spectacular right pad save, only for the rebound to land on the tape of Lynden Donald-Gorman, who fired it into the empty net. For the second straight day, the Oil Barons went to overtime. The MOB thought they found the game winner, when Noah Heinrich found himself all alone in the slot, only for his shot to ring off the crossbar and out of play. Moments later, off an Oil Baron turnover, Carson Brisson drove to the net and squeezed his shot underneath Gratton, giving Camrose the 3-2 victory.
Fort McMurray returns to Centerfire Place for a two game set against the Canmore Eagles on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday’s game starts at 7:30pm, while Sunday’s begins at 2pm. Also, after the game on Sunday, the Oil Barons are hosting their first Family Skate of the season. Fans are encouraged to bring their skates to the game, and afterwards they will be able to join the Oil Barons on the ice.