A sluggish start from the Fort McMurray Oil Barons Saturday night found them trailing early in Game 2 of the North Division final and they were never able to get back in the game. The Whitecourt Wolverines tied up the series 1-1 with a 5-3 win as the series now shifts to Whitecourt for Games 3 and 4.
“Fully deserving of the loss,” said MOB head coach Tom Keca. “We didn’t battle hard enough, we didn’t compete, we got out muscled, we got pushed around, we got sand kicked in our face.”
An early too many men on the ice penalty for Barons would prove costly as the Wolverines capitalized when Justin Young tapped in his own rebound after his initial shot bounced off the cross bar.
The Wolverines doubled their lead 8:33 into the first period when Jaedon Leslie streaked down the right wing and roofed a shot over the shoulder of Eric Szudor.
“We talk about as coaches how the game is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical and we weren’t engaged mentally at all right from the get go,” said Keca.
The Barons pushed back in the latter half of the period and were able to get one past Pierce Diamond before the period was out. Will Conley muscled his way out of the corner and walked around an outstretched Diamond to slide home his 6th goal of the playoffs to cut the lead to 2-1.
However, in the second it was the Wolverines who again took the game to the Barons, outshooting them 17-7 and scoring the lone two goals of the frame.
Joesph Nardi converted a feed from Young on a two on one for his playoff leading 17th point. Colton Meekhof then blasted a shot into the top corner from the top of the right face-off circle 2:28 later on another Wolverines powerplay to open up a 4-1 lead.
The Barons showed no quit in the third period as they cut the lead to 4-2 just over two minutes in when Ryan Cox found the back of the net. Conley’s shot was stopped and he fed his own rebound over to a wide open Cox at the side of the goal. The goal was Cox’s first of the playoffs since returning from a four game absence.
The MOB would head to the powerplay a minute later with a chance to cut the lead to one. Off a face-off win by the MOB, the puck slid into centre ice where Justin Young blew past Stefan Wood and raced in on goal. Young chipped a shot over the glove of Szudor to open up a 5-2 lead with his 10th goal of the post season.
“You sort of have a little bit of hope when you score that second goal and you have a 20 year old defenceman that gets out muscled along the wall and gives up a breakaway, you can’t win that way,” said Keca.
The MOB would get one late when Brett Edwards snapped home his second goal of the series but it wasn’t enough as the Wolverines hung on to tie the series.
Game 3 goes Monday night from the Scott Safety Centre in Whitecourt. You can catch all the action beginning with the pre-game show at 7:15 p.m. with Taylor Pope on Country 93.3.
Written by: Taylor Pope, mymcmurray.com.