With their season on the line in front of a packed house at the Casman Centre, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons won another tight game against the Whitecourt Wolverines as the MOB came away with a 3-2 win in Game 5 Friday night to send the series back to Whitecourt on Sunday.
The Wolverines now lead the best of seven series three games to two as the MOB will fight to try and force a seventh and deciding game on Tuesday back at the Casman Centre.
“I thought we did a fairly decent job of shutting them down so all in all hopefully everyone went home happy,” said MOB Head Coach Tom Keca. The attendance was announced as 1,738 which was one of the biggest crowds of the season at the Casman Centre. “We appreciate the support, we talk at length throughout the course of the year about the great fans that we have and they came out in numbers and it was really great to see.
The MOB came out flying to start the first period, taking the game to the Wolverines and peppering Xavier Potvin as the shot clock read 12-3 mid-way through the first period. The MOB were physical, throwing their weight around as Jarred White laid out the six foot four Liam Motley cutting across the ice erupting the crowd.
The Barons would finally break Potvin when Reed Morison followed up on the play and found a loose puck after it was knocked off the stick of Ryan Conroy. Morison wired a shot into the top right corner for the Oil Barons first goal since the first period of Game 3.
The MOB doubled their lead 6:19 into the second period when Peter Tomaras got in behind the Wolverines defence. Conroy slipped a pass to him down low and Tomaras made no mistake, beating Potvin through the legs.
“Tomaras has been really good here in the playoffs and I think he’s really found his game for us and probably playing more of the player we thought we were getting earlier in the year,” said Keca of Tomaras who scored his second goal of the playoffs. “Credit to him and his character for sticking to it and he could’ve gotten frustrated cause he wasn’t getting points but he just works so hard and for him to get rewarded like that was great.”
The Wolverines leading scorer got them on the board at the 12:34 mark when Ben Evanish flew down the right wing and tucked in a wrap around on Eric Szudor for his fifth goal of the series.
Szudor was making his first start since being injured in Game 1 of the first round against Bonnyville. It was a tough decision to take the young Chris Curr out who had played outstanding in the playoffs since taking over in goal.
“The best thing about the whole situation is the fact I bring Chris Curr in and I talk to him and Curr has absolutely zero problem and he understands that Eric is a 20 year old and this potentially could’ve been his last opportunity to play in front of these fans and Curr says ‘No no you have to do this’,” said Keca of the decision to start Szudor who is in his third year with the MOB.
The Oil Barons looked to Szudor to shut the door and their leading goal scorer from the regular season came up big in the third period as Will Conley ripped a shot home off a face-off win from Shane Fraser. The goal was Conley’s fourth of the playoffs and put the MOB up 3-1.
The Wolverines got one goal back when Yannick Bertrand slid home a rebound but that was as close as the Wolverines would get. Szudor made 28 saves in picking up his first win of the playoffs in his return to the MOB goal.
The series now shifts back to Whitecourt on Sunday night and Keca knows the opening minutes will be crucial in hostile territory.
“We have to do the best job that we can to take their crowd out of it and we try and flip the script on them. I think that we’ve had success in the series when we’ve been physical and we talk about with our players how every hit is an investment in a seven game series,” said Keca.
You can listen to the game live on Country 93.3 beginning with the pre-game show at 7:15 p.m. with Taylor Pope.
MOB Head Coach Tom Keca on the Country 93.3 Post-Game Show.
Written by: Taylor Pope, mymcmurray.com.
Photo by: Dan Lines