Oil Barons roar into Playoffs after 6-3 win in Season Finale

The Fort McMurray Oil Barons concluded the regular season Saturday night with a convincing 6-3 win over the visiting Whitecourt Wolverines. It was the MOB’s (42-13-5) third win in a row over the Wolverines (33-20-7) as they finish the season in second place in the North Division.

“I congratulated our boys, it’s tough, it’s a 60 game grind and when you look at the overall dynamics of our league it’s very tough for us to win the North Division just strictly based on the amount of travel we have, the amount of three in three road trips that we play so for our players to get 89 points this year, full credit to the players we have in that room,” said MOB Head Coach Tom Keca on the season the MOB have had.

After falling behind 2-0 in the first period, the MOB scored six unanswered goals to take a commanding 6-2 lead before the Wolverines got a late marker to round out the scoring.

Ben Evanish and Estian Coetzee scored 23 seconds apart to put the Wolverines up a pair in the first period but the Oil Barons came out to start the second period as a much more determined group.

The MOB got some life 5:47 into the period when Peter Tomaras jammed home a loose puck in the crease after Jack Hamly had been stopped on the wrap around. The goal was Tomaras’ 5th of the season and also drew an assist from Jarred White.

Just past the mid-way point of the period the MOB would tie the game 2-2. Trevor Schroder picked off a Wolverines pass and got the puck to Owen Reith who used the Wolverines defender as a screen to rip a shot into the top right corner for his 6th goal of the year.

“Full credit to (Luke) Harvie, (Peter) Tomaras, (Jarred) White who got us going. (Jackson) Verstraete, (Trevor) Schroder, (Owen) Reith were really good today, they just gave us that energy and our guys fed off that. I thought it was as solid 40 minutes as we could in the last two periods,” said Keca.

The next shift, the Barons top line went to work with a beautiful three way passing play. Will Conley sprung Merritt Oszytko who found Shane Fraser streaking towards the Wolverines goal. The captain took the pass and with a quick move buried his 21st goal to give the MOB their first lead of the game 3-2.

The Barons continued to pour on the pressure in the third period and this time it was Fraser finding Oszytko heading to the goal. Oszytko chipped the puck past Tye Morin for a shorthanded goal and quickly scooped up the puck. With an assist on the goal and his second point of the game, Shane Fraser recorded 100 points in his AJHL career. Goalie Chris Curr who made 26 saves and picked up his 16th win of the season also had an assist on the goal.

Oszytko would score again at 9:28 of the period from the slot after receiving a pass from Conley. Oszytko’s two goal night gave him 24 goals on the season.

“I think Oszytko has really defined himself as a player who not only can shoot and score, he can make plays, he backchecks hard, he kills penalties for us and I really think over the last month his game has really elevated to the next level,” said Keca on Oszytko who has 7 points in his last three games.

Entering the game three goals shy of 50, Will Conley certainly had chances and would finally connect on a shorthanded breakaway with 2:22 left in the game. Conley’s 48 goals were the most in a season by an Oil Baron in 17 years. His three point night also gave him 80 points which were the most points in a season since Branden Gracel had 94 points in the 2009-10 season.

Spencer Bast got a late goal for the Wolverines but it was the Oil Barons sending their home fans away happy with their 22nd home victory at the Casman Centre.

Both teams were watching the out of town scoreboard to see who their first round opponent would be. A Lloydminster win over Grande Prairie means the Oil Barons will take on the Bonnyville Pontiacs in round one while the Wolverines will get the Bobcats. The other match-up will have Grande Prairie against Sherwood Park while Spruce Grove receives a first round bye.

Tickets are now on sale for the Oil Barons first round which will begin Thursday night at the Casman Centre.

MOB Head Coach Tom Keca on the Country 93.3 Post-Game Show.

Written by: Taylor Pope, mymcmurray.com.

Photo by: Dan Lines