FORT MCMURRAY, AB (October 4, 2013) — It's a sentence that has never been accurate before: The Fort McMurray Oil Barons are 11-0.
The MOB broke a 14-year old franchise record on Friday night, downing the Drayton Valley Thunder 6-4 in front of a standing room-only crowd of 1,808 at the Casman Centre.
The previous record of 10 straight wins to open a season had been set by the 1999-2000 Barons, who went on to win that year's Royal Bank Cup.
“Obviously, very pleased and proud that the boys were able to reel off the victory,” head coach and Gord Thibodeau described his mood. “Would have preferred it be in a better game; I thought it was very sloppy at both ends, but you can't ask for things of beauty at this stage; you take the victory.”
The Barons trailed early after a Tanner Clarkson breakaway goal made it 1-0 Drayton just 3:40 in. By the end of the first, however, the MOB had the game tied with a power-play goal from Danton Ayotte (Wetaskiwin, AB), who converted a Jetlan Houcher (Paradise Valley, AB) rebound for his 5th goal in his last 4 games.
The first MOB lead came in an unusual fashion, when DV goalie Marc-Olivier Daigle fed a puck straight up the middle from the side of his own net, to a waiting Houcher, whose one timer hit the back of an empty net for a 2-1 score.
Just under 4 minutes later, Colten Meaver (Edmonton, AB) corralled a loose puck when a DV defender fell at the MOB blue line, skated in on a breakaway, and fired a shot short side on Daigle to double the McMurray lead.
But just under two minutes after that, a perfectly played rush by the Thunder ended with Nathan Smith centering to a trailing forward in Brett Smythe, whose wrist shot beat Jaillet to bring the visitors within 1 after two periods.
In the third, however, the Barons pulled away for good with three consecutive goals.
First, a nifty three-way passing play between Alex Cromwell (McKinney, TX), Ryan Bloom (Calgary, AB), and Hayden Dawes (Stony Plain, AB) ended with Dawes toe-dragging his way into the slot and lifting a puck over Daigle's left shoulder for a 4-2 MOB lead.
Then, on a power-play, Kevin Miller (Stony Plain, AB) added to the lead with a perfectly placed wrist shot from the left-wing faceoff circle, and finally, Austin Yadlowski (Edmonton, AB) notched the sixth goal of the night for the home side on a slap shot from the blueline that rang the left post before crossing the goal line for a 6-2 score.
However, poor discipline and defence by the MOB late allowed the Thunder to become the first team this season to score more than three times against the MOB. In the third, it was two power play conversions less than 15 seconds after a Barons penalty – the first by Tanner Clarkson on a net front scramble at 10:36, and the second less than a minute later off a wrist shot from the left wing circle by Trevor Poirier – narrowing the Barons' lead to 6-4.
But the MOB held on for the remainder of the third to solidify the win and the record-breaking start.
“I don't think they're sitting there patting themselves on the back right now,” said Thibodeau of his team. “I think they're saying 'jeez, you know what, we've got to be better.'”
Thibodeau says Jesse Gordichuk (Penticton, BC) will get the start in nets tomorrow night for the rematch and chance at the 12th straight win to open the season for Fort McMurray.
“We've just got to compete more,” said Thibodeau. “We were iffy. When we felt that we had a 70% chance to win a battle, we went in and battled. When it was 50-50, we didn't have a lot of guys that were in there ready to battle..”
Pre-game coverage starts at 7:45 on Country 93.3.
Country 93.3 3 stars:
1. Jetlan Houcher (1 goal, 2 assists)
2. Tanner Clarkson (2 goals, 1 assist)
3. Ryan Bloom (2 assists)