Oil Barons slip past Storm, 4-3

Fort McMurray Oil Barons captain Jetlan Houcher had a pair of goals on his 20th birthday to help the Barons down the Grande Prairie Storm 4-3 Saturday night at the Canada Games Arena.

“I'm happy with the two points, but there's still a lot of room for improvement,” said Barons head coach  and general manager Gord Thibodeau. “I thought our defence struggled. I thought our forwards buried the puck a little better, but we still left too many chances on the table.”

Brennan Saulnier got the Barons on the board first, scoring his 15th of the season at 8:28 of the first.  The Storm would get one back just before the end of the period, as forward Stephen Doan scored a shorthanded goal off a two-on-one to tie the game with 1:45 remaining. The Barons would hold a 12-7 lead in shots after 20 minutes, but the game would remain tied at one. 

Houcher would restore the Barons' lead in the second period by scoring with a backhander on a breakaway at 4:53. Unfortunately for the Barons, the Storm would tie the game less than three minutes later with Tyson McCallum converting on the powerplay. 2-2 would be the score after two periods and the Storm and MOB would also be tied in shots, 21-21.

“Every time we got up and seemed to get on a roll, we seemed to give them another chance to get back, whether it was a bad penalty, or a dumb pass or our defence getting beat,” said Thibodeau. “We didn't give up a lot of scoring chances, but you'd like to be able to maintain some momentum and we didn't do that.”

Just 1:11 into the final frame, Houcher would score his second of the night and give the Barons a 3-2 lead. The Oil Barons would extend their lead just past the halfway point of the third as Adam Durkee tipped Brett McNeil's shot past Storm netminder Nick Kulmanovsky, putting the MOB up 4-2. The Storm would get one back with 3:07 remaining after Ryan Baskerville crashed the crease and banged one in the net, but the MOB would hang on to win the game 4-3. Gordichuk made 29 saves to earn his 14th win of the season.

The Oil Barons next game is Wednesday in Drayton Valley against the Thunder. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m.