FORT MCMURRAY, AB (November 23, 2013) — Down 3-1 after twenty minutes, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons (23-2-2) scored five consecutive goals en route to a 6-3 comeback win over the Whitecourt Wolverines in front of 1,509 fans at the Casman Centre on Saturday night.
The Wolverines turned to former WHL goalie Mac Engel for the third consecutive game; not only was he tested early, but he showed little sign of fatigue, as he denied MOB captain Jetlan Houcher (Paradise Valley, AB) on a breakaway early in the first period.
But it would be the Barons opening the scoring at the 2:32 mark when a line that would feature prominently all game completed a tic-tac-toe odd-man rush play. Brennan Saulnier (Halifax, NS) carried the puck into the Whitecourt zone and fed a pass to the left-wing faceoff circle for Hayden Dawes (Stony Plain, AB), who out-waited the Whitecourt defence and feathered a pass backdoor to Ryan Bloom (Calgary, AB), who tapped the puck in behind Engel for a 1-0 Barons lead.
But the Wolverines would claim the momentum for the remainder of the first period, scoring three straight goals. First, Clay Spencer tied the game less than a minute after Bloom's goal, on a power-play set up by Colten Mayor, who sent the puck through the crease for a one-timer to end MOB goaltender Jesse Gordichuk's (Penticon, BC) lengthy shutout streak.
The official tally on the streak was just short of 180 minutes without allowing a goal for the MOB rookie netminder.
At the 6:45 mark, Jordan Davies centered a puck from the end boards, finding a wide-open Sam Lawson at the top of the McMurray crease, who wrister beat Gordichuk to make it 2-1 Wolverines. With less than 5 minutes to go, another odd-man rush ended with a Whitecourt goal as Joel Herbert one-timed the puck in from the right faceoff circle on a 3-on-2 to cap off a first period that had the Wolverines leading 3-1 in goals but trailing 12-11 in shots.
The final 40 minutes would not resemble the opening twenty much at all, as the Barons outshot the Wolverines 32-11 for the remainder of the game.
The MOB erased the Whitecourt lead in the second period with two goals from Dawes. First, Saulnier took advantage of a giveaway behind the Whitecourt net and fed a perfect centering pass to Dawes, whose wrist shot from the slot got the MOB back within 1. Then at 16:37 on the powerplay, it was Dawes at the side of the net deflecting a Brett McNeil (Halifax, NS) point shot to knot the game up 3-3 and ensure that the third period would decide the whole thing.
That third was decidedly in the MOB's favour, as they took a lead 5:02 in off of a Mitch Vanderlaan (Hanwell, NB) second chance wrist shot from the left faceoff circle that went bar-down behind Engel. Just over 4 minutes later, the MOB's shorthanded unit converted when Bloom's wrist shot from the right circle was stopped by Engel's blocker, but a rebound popped out to Saulnier along the right wing, who tapped it in on the backhand for his third point of the night and a 5-3 Barons lead.
Things would get testy in the third as the Wolverines took exception to a big hit by Saulnier on Ryan Berlin of Whitecourt in the Barons' end; a hit so severe it literally sent Berlin flying through the air and down on the ice. As tensions mounted, goaltenders Engel and Gordichuk began to skate to centre ice to fight, before they were intercepted by the linesmen and prevented from doing so.
The Wolverines pulled Engel with just under 4 minutes to go and a power play chance, but could not solve Gordichuk, who held on for his eighth consecutive win to open his Oil Barons career.
With 45 seconds left, a Zach Wittenburg clearance slowed up enough in the Whitecourt end to avoid icing. The speedy Saulnier chased it down, skated to the right circle, and scored into an empty net to ice the 6-3 final for the nation's number 1 team.
The game ended with the MOB doubling the Wolverines in shots 44-22. They went 2 for 6 on their powerplay and 5 for 6 on the penalty kill.
The Barons have a full week of practice ahead before another set of home games on Friday and Saturday night against the Grande Prairie Storm.
Both games are scheduled for 8 PM starts with pre-game coverage starting at 7:45 PM on Country 93.3.
Country 93.3 3 stars:
1. Hayden Dawes (2 goals, 1 assist)
2. Brennan Saulnier (2 goals, 2 assists)
3. Ryan Bloom (1 goal, 1 assist)