For the second time this season the Fort McMurray Oil Barons have won eight straight hockey games.
The MOB battled through a parade of penalties to defeat the Okotoks Oilers 4-2 Saturday night.
The win put the Barons (32-10-1) just one point behind Whitecourt for the North Division lead with two games in hand.
After a great start Friday night in Canmore, the MOB had a different story in Okotoks. A quick penalty resulted in the game’s opening goal as Trey Degraaf buried his 19th goal past Eric Szudor ten seconds into the Oilers (27-14-5) powerplay.
Despite the quick goal and two more penalties in the first period, the MOB were never phased and escaped the frame down 1-0.
“The guys just said brush it off. There was still 58 minutes left in the game and we’re not going to allow one goal to be the difference,” said MOB head coach Tom Keca about what was said on the bench after the quick goal.
The game switched gears in the second period as the MOB came out quickly tying the game 1-1 on a goal from Dylan Rauh 2:11 in.
Will Conley flew down the right wing and fed Rauh on a two on one before he snapped a shot past Riley Morris for his first goal of the season.
“He’s a resilient kid and we took our time with him to make sure he was 100 percent and he’s slowly getting his game legs back,” said Keca of Rauh who had sports hernia surgery in training camp. “He’s continually knocked off a little more rust and his game has been better and he got rewarded today.”
The second period appeared to be the Oilers turn to march to the penalty box as they took five straight penalties including a pair that put them down two men for a full two minutes.
The Barons made them pay as Brandon Ralph sniped a shot short side on Morris up under the bar to give the MOB their first lead 2-1. Shane Fraser drew an assist on the goal extending his point streak to eight games.
The Oilers peppered Szudor in the third period, firing 18 shots his way and beating him on a rebound at 6:07 to tie the game 2-2 as Degraaf chipped in his second of the game and 20th on the year.
The tie was short lived as Toby Shattler broke the deadlock 54 seconds later. Curtis Roach danced around two Oiler defenders before finding Shattler coming in late, Shattler waited before firing a shot past Morris for his 7th of the season.
“When they scored to make it 2-2 there was no panic on our bench. It’s that veteran leadership and presence that is really paying off dividends for our younger guys and Toby Shattler makes a heck of a play; scores the goal and that ends up being the winner,” said Keca.
Ralph would add an empty netter with 1:10 left in the game to give the Barons all they needed. The goal was the captain’s 20th of the campaign.
Szudor made 32 saves in picking up his sixth straight win and 17th of the year in his 50th career AJHL game.
“It’s a cliché we use as coaches but he’s been giving us a chance to win and to get points,” said Keca of the play of his goaltender during the win streak. “Szudor has been outstanding and when you have a goaltender that you know when you might have to take a chance that he’s going to bail you out, all that does is build our confidence on the bench.”
The MOB will look to sweep the weekend trip when they travel to Olds Sunday afternoon to face the Grizzlys. Pre-game show at 1:45 p.m. on Country 93.3 with Taylor Pope.
Taner Miller played in his 100th career AJHL game. 99 with the Oil Barons and one with Drumheller. The 18 year old has 11 goals and 50 career points in his career.
Ryan Cox sat out his fourth and final game of his four game suspension.
Written by: Taylor Pope, mymcmurray.com.
Photographer: Dan Lines