The Fort McMurray Oil Barons put forth their best effort of the season Friday night and it was all smiles after the game as the MOB took down the reigning AJHL champion Brooks Bandits 4-2 in their opening game of the AJHL Showcase.
“It was a great test for us, Brooks is obviously one of the top teams in our league and for us to get two points and to not only win the game but also have a lot of players put in a complete effort is great for our hockey club,” said Head Coach Tom Keca.
All 16 teams are gathered in Camrose this weekend for the annual AJHL Showcase. Hundreds of scouts filled the seats throughout the day at the Max McLean and Encana Arena.
The MOB and Bandits were the final game of the day and the skill of the AJHL was on full display.
The Bandits opened the scoring mid-way through the first period when the Barons turned the puck over at their own blueline. The Bandits had a three on one down low and Ty Mappin snapped a shot through the legs of Forbes Ploszaj for his fourth goal of the year.
The goal did not deflate the Barons as they pressed for an equalizer before the period was out. Ryan Cox won the puck behind the Bandits goal and centered it to a pinching JC Thivierge. Thivierge walked in from the top of the face-off circle and wired a shot over the blocker of Alex Horawski to tie the game 1-1.
The MOB would get into penalty trouble in the second period and the league’s second best powerplay made them pay. Mappin fired a shot towards goal and the rebound was scooped up by Oliver Chau who popped home his league leading seventh goal of the year.
The Bandits lead was short lived, just 2:32 later, Cox again won the puck down low and centered it to a wide open Brandon Ralph who picked the top corner on Horawski for his first goal as an Oil Baron.
The MOB would take their first lead of the game late in the period. While shorthanded, Cox pressed goaltender Horawski in the corner forcing the turnover. The puck came out to Liam Izyk who sent the puck towards goal. Cale Makar batted the puck out of mid-air to save a goal but the rebound went right back to Izyk who scored his second goal of the season to give the Barons a 3-2 lead.
“We tell our guys that even when you don’t think you’re going to get there if you still put forth an effort, you never know what could happen. A puck could jump or might hit some bad ice and that’s exactly what happened,” said Keca of his team’s forecheck.
The Bandits poured on the pressure in the third, firing 16 shots on Ploszaj but the 19 year old stopped everything sent his way.
Cox added an empty netter with the clock winding down to seal the win after a great feed from Ralph on the half wall.
“He could’ve tried to chip that off the wall past their defenceman who came down to pinch but he had the composure to look in the middle and chip it to Cox who was another guy who needed a goal,” said Keca on the great heads up play by his veteran.
The goal was Cox’s second of the year and capped off a brilliant night in which the St. Albert native was in on all four MOB goals.
“He’s intelligent and can play in a lot of different situations,” said Keca on the play of Cox. “When you can trust a goal scorer like that to put him out in the last minute to protect a one goal lead, that says a lot about him and his contributions and his value to the team.”
With the win the MOB move into a tie for second in the North Division and improve their record to 5-2-0. The Barons are back in action Saturday afternoon against the Drumheller Dragons.
Puck drop is set for 4:30p.m.
You can listen to the game on Country 93.3 with Taylor Pope beginning with the pre-game show at 4:15p.m.
Written by: Taylor Pope, mymcmurray.com.