A pair of rookies led the attack Tuesday night as the Fort McMurray Oil Barons received goals from Jarred White and Garrick Ripley en route to a 3-2 win over the Drayton Valley Thunder.
The win stopped a three game losing streak for the Barons (22-8-1) and kicked off a seven game road trip to end 2016 on the right foot.
“It was huge for us. We had to battle through some adversity and now we’re back on the winning side so we’re going to try and keep it going into the Christmas break,” said MOB forward Jarred White who scored the game winning goal.
The first period has not been kind to the MOB of late. Slow starts have put the MOB behind early and forced them to constantly play from behind. The Barons had their legs early, controlling the play and if it wasn’t for Thunder goalie Parker Tobin making several huge stops, the MOB would’ve put this game away early. Despite firing 16 shots towards Tobin in the opening frame, the game remained scoreless.
The second period stayed deadlocked until an unlikely source opened the scoring. Gerrick Ripley who was paying in his first career AJHL game tapped in a Toby Shattler rebound with 4:06 remaining in the period to put the MOB up 1-0. Ripley’s goal was the second time this season an affiliate player had scored in their first career game. Gunner Kinniburgh did the same on November 3rd against Grande Prairie.
“It’s great when your affiliates can come up and have some success and he’s (Ripley) able to pot a greasy goal in exactly the area we’re trying to challenge our players to go to on a more consistent basis,” said MOB Head Coach Tom Keca on the goal.
The goal was the 30th Baron shot on Tobin in the game and it may have gotten to the young netminder as the MOB struck again 37 seconds later when JC Thivierge batted in his own rebound to double the lead. White drew the lone assist on Thivierge’s eighth goal of the year.
The Thunder (7-20-4) would get one back before the period was out. A turnover at the defensive blueline allowed Rhett Willcox and Sam Anzai to break in two on one. Willcox fed Anzai who deked past Josh Williams to cut the lead to 2-1.
The Barons lead was short lived as 51 seconds into the third period, Marcus Walter beat Williams from the left point to tie the game 2-2.
With two of their leading scorers out of the lineup (Ryan Cox & Jack Hamly) and their goaltender (Eric Szudor) because of the Canada West selection camp, it gave several MOB players an increased role throughout the game.
Jarred White who has been in and out of the lineup all season took full advantage of the extra playing time. White picked up the puck in the neutral zone and blew past the Thunder defenceman before cutting hard to the goal and stuffing the puck past Tobin. The goal was White’s first in 10 games and fourth of the year.
“The defender looked like he was caught standing still so I was trying to drive it wide and then I saw net front so I took it net front and luckily the puck went in,” said White with a laugh.
With the MOB up 3-2, the physical play ramped up and some questionable calls ensued.
Nicholas Leeseberg was ejected after what appeared to be a harmless bump in front of the benches. A few minutes later Thunder captain Matt Benko dropped his gloves and started beating on MOB rookie Liam Izyk at the side of the Thunder goal. Both players received two minutes for roughing and ten minute misconducts despite Izyk not dropping his gloves or throwing a punch.
“We were told that Liam Izyk started the whole ruckus and that both players were just getting two and ten,” said Keca when describing what the officials told him. “The linesman called a four minute penalty and didn’t know who did it so in a 3-2 game we have to kill a four minute penalty and I thought that was crucial.”
Keca was describing a double minor handed to Brett Edwards after initially no penalty was called and play continued until a whistle. Nolan Krewusik showed the officials he was bleeding and after much deliberation Edwards went to the box for a high stick.
“Full credit to the guys, we stayed focused and we stayed the course but it’s getting…I don’t really know what to say,” said a baffled Keca. “It’s just really frustrating. We threw 44 shots on net today and had one powerplay.”
The powerplays in the game were 5-1 in favour of the Thunder. It was the fifth time this season the Barons have had one or less powerplays in a game.
The two teams will meet again Wednesday night in Drayton Valley. Pre-game show at 7:15 p.m. on Country 93.3 with Taylor Pope.
MOB Head Coach Tom Keca on the Country 93.3 Post Game Show.
Written by: Taylor Pope, mymcmurray.com.
Photographer: Dan Lines