For a second straight night the Drayton Valley Thunder gave the Fort McMurray Oil Barons everything they had and the MOB were unable to contain the Thunder’s top players and a slew of turnovers resulted in a second straight 4-3 loss.
Marc-Antoine Benoit scored 1:43 into overtime as the Thunder (15-36-3) swept the two game set at the Casman Centre and kept their playoff chances alive while putting a dent in the Oil Barons (39-11-4) bid for first place in the North Division.
The Thunder kept control of the puck for the entire overtime and a tired Oil Barons group couldn’t get a change in. Steve Senese found Benoit who walked in from the top of the face-off circle and beat Eric Szudor on the glove hand for his second goal of the game and capped off a four point evening.
“They protected the puck well, they cycled the puck well and they waited for us to break down a little bit and we did and they got an opportunity and it’s in the back of the net,” said MOB Assistant Coach Dave Dupas on the overtime goal.
The Barons started much better than the previous night, taking a 2-0 lead after the first period on goals from Will Conley and Merritt Oszytko. Conley buried his 43rd of the year from the slot off a feed from Shane Fraser before Oszytko snapped a Conley pass into the top corner just over four minutes later.
But in the second period, the Thunder would capitalize on several Barons mistakes to score three unanswered goals and take a 3-2 lead. The MOB out shot the Thunder 18-12 in the period but the Thunder got goals from Malik Kaddoura after a defensive zone turnover. Then Benoit on a 2-on-0 and Vincent Beaudry on a breakaway.
Shawn Parkinson was tough to crack for a second game in a row in the Thunder goal. A night after making 36 saves, Parkinson stopped 35 Barons shots. Jordan Roy would beat him from in tight in the third period while on a powerplay but that was all the MOB could muster.
“They have a good goaltender and when he sees it he stops it and we had to get traffic in front and we had to get pucks and create some scrambles in front of the net which we didn’t do. We get up 2-0 and then we let them off the hook a little bit because we didn’t keep pushing and pushing and all of a sudden they get a couple turnovers in the offensive zone and away they go,” said Dupas.
The Barons will be off for the weekend as the Casman Centre plays host to the Alberta Winter Games. The MOB will take on the Spruce Grove Saints Family Day Monday at 4:00 p.m. at the Casman Centre.
“We have to get better and hopefully we can find something here this weekend. We have a couple days off before Spruce Grove comes in here,” said Dupas.
The Alberta Junior Hockey League announced their 2017-2018 award finalists Friday morning and four Oil Barons were recognized. For a second straight year Eric Szudor has been nominated for Top Goaltender, Captain Shane Fraser has been nominated for Most Dedicated Player, goalie Chris Curr is up for Rookie of the Year while Head Coach Tom Keca is up for Coach of the Year after winning the award last season.
Szudor is tied for third in the AJHL in wins as he has compiled a 24-8-2 record with a pair of shutouts in his third season. His .910 save percentage and 2.93 goals against average place him fourth and sixth in their respective categories among goalies who have played at least 25 games.
The Barons other netminder has been nothing but stellar in his first season in the AJHL as Chris Curr has put together a 15-3-2 record in 22 games. Curr’s .926 save percentage is first among goalies who have played more than 20 games and his 2.25 goals against average places him third.
Shane Fraser is the heart and soul of this Oil Barons team and has put together a career year in his third season with the MOB. Fraser is on pace to eclipse 20 goals and 50 points for the first time in his junior career as the 20 year old has 19 goals and 48 points in 53 games this season. He also has a chance to hit 100 career points as he sits at 94 with six games remaining in the season.
From a 10 win season in his first year behind the bench to 44 and a first place finish in the North Division in his second, Tom Keca has guided the Barons to a 39-11-4 record with six games remaining and a chance to hit 40 wins for a second straight year. The MOB have contended for top spot in the division all season as Keca looks to become the first Oil Barons coach to win the award in back to back years.
Written by: Taylor Pope, mymcmurray.com.
Photo by: Dan Lines, Fort McMurray Oil Barons