For a second straight night the Fort McMurray Oil Barons were no match for the visiting Spruce Grove Saints and a hot goaltender stole the show. Nolan Kent stopped all 28 MOB shots in picking up his second shutout of the season as the Saints blanked the Barons 3-0 Saturday night at the Casman Centre.
With the loss the MOB (21-8-1) slipped to fourth place in the ultra competitive North Division and extended their losing streak to a season high three games.
“It’s a 60 game schedule and there’s going to be times through the course of the year where moral is high and then there’s other times where your results will test your character and it’ll show you and expose you to the type of character that you have,” said MOB head coach Tom Keca. “We always marvel that we usually bounce back but the the difference now is you’re bouncing back against really good teams and Spruce Grove is a very disciplined, well balanced team.”
The first real losing streak of the season for the Barons as up until this week, the MOB had yet to lose back to back games. All three losses have come against divisional rivals and in their home barn. The MOB will finish December with seven straight road games and will look to recover their swagger that has had them atop the league for the majority of the first half of the AJHL season.
Ian Mitchell scored the game winning goal for a second straight game for the Saints (21-8-2) as he blasted a one timer past Eric Szudor on a powerplay 6:39 into the first period.
A shorthanded goal from Josh Harris 2:23 into the second doubled up the Saints lead. Harris out muscled Jackson McKinstry and was able to slide the puck around the outstretched leg of Szudor.
Ryan McKInnon would make it 3-0 moments later as he snapped a shot on the short side on a two on one.
“We’ve got players in compete positions but we’re just not willing to compete,” said Keca. “I don’t necessarily love the way we played and while we lacked intensity and emotion, I don’t think we gave up a whole lot.”
Kent shut the door the rest of the way and for a second night in a row, held on in the third period after a big push by the MOB.
Goals have been extremely hard to come by for the MOB against the Saints this season and Kent is a major reason why. The goaltender has stopped 124 of 127 shots in four games against the Barons this year.
“We’ve been snake bitten now for a couple weeks so now is it a matter of are we snake bitten or just not that good offensively. There’s a difference between scoring a lot of goals and then there are times when you’re not going to score but you’re going to generate a lot of chances,” said Keca on his team’s lack of scoring over the weekend.
The Saints like the Barons will send three players to the Canada West selection camp this week for the upcoming World Junior A Challenge. Kent, Mitchell and Jarrod Gourley will be joined by the Barons Ryan Cox, Jack Hamly and Eric Szudor.
The MOB will have several affiliate players in their lineup this week to replace the players heading to the camp. The MOB are in Drayton Valley Tuesday and Wednesday. Pre-game shows at 7:15 p.m. on Country 93.3 with Taylor Pope.
The Barons will return home Friday December 9 for one final game at the Casman Centre in 2016. The MOB will take on the Czech Republic U19 Select Team in a pre-tournament game ahead of the World Junior A Challenge.
“It’s an opportunity that you don’t get everyday, we were very fortunate to be selected by Hockey Canada and asked to host the game so we’re hoping that we can sell a lot of tickets and not only for our guys but for the Czech Republic guys to show them what a great community is about. It’ll be an experience that all of our players will cherish and enjoy, it’s a once in a lifetime kind of opportunity so hopefully we can pack the Casman Centre next Friday,” said Keca on bringing international hockey to Fort McMurray.
Puck drop for the game is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the Casman Centre box office or online.
Written by: Taylor Pope, mymcmurray.com.
Photographer: Dan Lines