Everybody knew heading into this series that it was two very similar teams and very equally matched clubs. The MOB finished the regular season 2nd in the North Division with the Wolverines just behind them in 3rd.
The Fort McMurray Oil Barons took 2-0 and 3-1 leads only to see them evaporate as the Whitecourt Wolverines battled back to force overtime. It didn’t take long for the MOB to answer back as Jordan Roy scored 6:46 into the extra frame to give the MOB a 4-3 win in Game 1 of their North Division semi-final.
Back and forth the two teams went with momentum switching sides all night in front of a packed house at the Casman Centre.
The Oil Barons were able to hem the Wolverines in deep in overtime with a great cycle game between Jack Hamly and Jordan Roy. It was the hulking Roy who emerged out of the corner. Twisting and turning, Roy powered his way through the slot and waited just long enough to open up some space on the far side of the goal before ripping a backhand shot past Xavier Potvin and sending the building into a frenzy.
“You know what you’re going to get with him. You know he’s going to take pucks hard to the net, you know that if the puck gets dumped into his corner he’s probably going to finish his hit and that’s what you sort of need,” said MOB Head Coach Tom Keca on Jordan Roy whose goal was his 1st of the playoffs. “We talked about trying to keep the puck below the ringette line as much as we could and trying to be as active as we can but at the end of the day it’s about winning battles and one on one battles.
Maybe the biggest one on one battle won in the game was in the opening minutes when Ben Evanish blocked a point shot and raced away on a breakaway. The Wolverines leading goal scorer in the regular season was robbed by Chris Curr to keep the game scoreless.
“For Curr to come in a stare down one of their top guys early in the game and make that stop was huge. It’s nothing new and nothing that he does should surprise anybody anymore,” said Keca on Curr who is now 4-0 in the playoffs after taking over for the injured Eric Szudor.
The Wolverines hit two crossbars in the first period but neither team could find the back of the net in the opening frame.
The MOB would get on the board 26 seconds into the second period when Taner Miller’s point shot beat a screened Potvin to give the MOB a 1-0 lead. Will Conley and Curtis Roach would draw the assists on the powerplay goal.
Specialty teams would come into play again for the MOB as less than two minutes later Merritt Oszytko and Shane Fraser broke up ice shorthanded. Oszytko’s shot was stopped by Potvin but Fraser was there to jam home the rebound and extend the MOB’s lead to 2-0.
“The moment there’s the puck, Fraser knows that if he skates hard enough and gets to certain areas Oszytko is going to get him the puck. He’s really good in tight and in small areas and he can chip pucks and bust seems so it’s a good combination when we’re shorthanded,” said Keca of the pair. The MOB have scored four shorthanded goals against the Wolverines this season.
Jake Hobson would get the Wolverines on the board before the period was out when his point shot deflected off an Oil Baron and past Curr.
The Barons restored their two goal lead early in the third period when Coy Prevost spotted a wide open Reed Morison in front of the Wolverines goal. Morison beat Potvin low on the short side and now has goals in back to back games.
With the MOB leading 3-1, the Wolverines weren’t going down easy. They cut the lead to one when Spencer Bast scored on a two-on-one before Liam Motley struck with just over a minute left in the third period to tie the game 3-3. Both goals were as a result of MOB turnovers.
This is the third straight year the two teams have met in the post-season. The Wolverines swept the MOB in the 1st round in 2016 and knocked off the MOB last season in six games in the North Division Final.
Game 2 of the series goes Saturday night at the Casman Centre. Tickets are still available and can be purchased at the box office.
Written by: Taylor Pope, mymcmurray.com
Photo by: Dan Lines