The Sherwood Park Crusaders scored three goals in the first period during a 1:59 span and were able to score two goals in the shootout to snap the Fort McMurray Oil Barons nine game winning streak with a 4-3 win Friday night at the Casman Centre.
The Oil Barons had been cruising along during the month of January but ran into a Crusaders team which has slowly been climbing it’s way up the North standings in hopes of clinching home ice in the first round of the playoffs.
The MOB (33-10-2) were without the services of five regulars for Friday’s game as the injuries continue to pile up. Tyler Alger was recalled from the Calgary Northstars Midget AAA team and made an immediate impact in the game. Alger stripped a Crusaders defenceman at the offensive blueline and absolutely undressed Zac Klassen to tuck home the game’s opening goal at 15:28 of the first period.
“Sometimes the tendency for a coaching staff is that once you get an AP is to bury him on the 4th line and give him spot duty but we feel that Tyler (Alger) is an individual that has really progressed this year and is one of the leading scorers in the Alberta Midget league so we put him in with some highly skilled offensive guys and I thought that he played well,” said MOB head coach Tom Keca of Alger playing his first game on a line with Ryan Cox and Jack Hamly.
The Crusaders (27-17-1) outshot the MOB 16-6 in the first period and broke the game open on a late powerplay when Taner Miller was handed a double minor for high-sticking.
The Cru struck 27 seconds into the powerplay when Matthew Dykstra tipped in a Ben Sowa blast. Merritt Oszytko then pounced on a rebound to chip a shot past Eric Szudor 1:31 later to give the Crusaders a 2-1 lead.
Sherwood Park continued to pour on the pressure and buried another before the period was out when Dyskstra deflected a Ty Readman pass into the goal for his second of the period 28 seconds after the Oszytko goal.
“I thought the last 45 minutes were pretty good but the first 20 stunk,” said Keca. “I thought that they out competed us, we weren’t willing to get into any shot blocking lanes on the powerplay…it’s tough when you put yourself behind the eight ball after 20 minutes and you’re playing catch up for the rest of the night.”
The Barons seemed to turn the tides in the second period and would tie the game at 3-3 with goals from Jordan Steenbergen and Nicholas Leeseberg.
Steenbergen floated a shot in from the left point that found the top corner to cut the deficit to one at 9:26 of the frame. The goal was the 20 year olds first of the season in his 39th game.
“He’s a leader both on and off the ice and you know you’re going to get a great effort from him so you like to see a guy like that get rewarded. Last year he came in and scored 4 goals and this year it’s the running joke in the room if he’s even going to get one,” said Keca with a laugh.
With the period winding down, Leeseberg raced up ice and as he crossed the blueline fired a shot that tipped off the top of Klassen’s glove and trickled into the goal to tie the game.
The third period and overtime would solve nothing as the teams traded chances. Szudor made 34 saves in the game while Klassen kicked out 35 MOB shots.
In the shootout Tyler Maltby and Jesse Zaharichuk both beat Szudor up over the glove hand. Cox would score the lone goal for the MOB as the Crusaders defeated the Barons for the 1st time this season in their fourth meeting.
The two teams will be right back at it as they meet for a second time Saturday night at the Casman Centre, Puck drop is set for 8:00 p.m.
Defenceman Stefan Wood made his debut for the MOB Friday night. The 20 year old was acquired at the CJHL trade deadline from the Drumheller Dragons and brought a physical nature to the back end picking up two roughing minors in the first period.
“He probably played more minutes today then we had anticipated but with Wood whether it’s a good play or bad play you know you’re going to get 100 percent from him. He’s not going to get his stick lifted, he’s not going to get caught from behind and he’s going to do whatever it takes to get pucks out, get pucks deep and you respect guys like that,” said Keca.
The game also marked a milestone for MOB Trainer Pete Spiers who celebrated his 500th game on the MOB bench. Spiers is in his ninth season with the team and says the time has flown by and he’s met some incredible people along the way. When asked what it means to be a Fort McMurray Oil Baron, Spiers replied, “Heart, passion, dedication, it’s been nine years of my life and I wouldn’t be happy anywhere else.”
Written by: Taylor Pope, mycmurray.com.
Photographer: Dan Lines