LLOYDMINSTER, AB (September 29, 2013) – It’s the best start to a MOB season since the national championship run in 1999-2000. With a come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Lloydminster Bobcats (5-4), the Fort McMurray Oil Barons (10-0) registered their tenth consecutive victory to open the year, also tying for the third-longest season-opening win streak in AJHL history.
“They’ve all been different types of games, and we had to add some extra excitement at the end of this one, but I’m just pleased for the kids,” said head coach and general manager Gord Thibodeau. “They’ve worked real hard in these last six weeks, and put themselves in position to do this.”
The home side tallied first when Tanner Dunkle converted a cross-ice pass with a one-time power-play goal at 11:53 of the opening frame. The Barons were outshot 10-6 in the first period, but turned things around by the second.
5:27 into the middle frame, it was the supposed fourth line of Kaiden Tobin (Stony Plain, AB), Alex Cromwell (McKinney, TX), and Danton Ayotte (Wetaskiwin, AB) again proving its top calibre by generating Ayotte’s third goal in two games off of a scramble at the side of the Lloydminster net.
“Great forecheck by that line; Tobin getting the puck deep, Crommy creating the turnover, and Danton doing what he does; just put it on net,” said Thibodeau. “It’s a little lesson to some of the other guys – we’re not shooting enough; that was very evident early in the game, but we got a little better in the second period and for most of the third I thought we were pretty good.”
“We want to get more pucks directed, more traffic, at the net, and you usually get rewarded.”
The MOB was rewarded a second time in that period when Mitch Vanderlaan (Hanwell, NB), minutes after being denied by the post on a 2-on-1 rush, converted a rebound at the side of the Lloydminster net with a backhand goal for his first in Junior A, and the first MOB lead of the afternoon.
Then in the third, at the 6:39 mark, Austin Yadlowski (Edmonton, AB) fired a lengthy pass from his own end on the power-play, to a waiting captain Jetlan Houcher (Paradise Valley, AB), who had snuck behind the Lloydminster defence. The former Lloydminster midget AAA captain sped in on a breakaway and fired a perfectly-placed wrist shot over the blocker hand of goalie Devin Green for a 3-1 MOB lead.
A 4-minute high sticking penalty to the Bobcats with 2 minutes left in the game seemed to seal the deal, until Lukas Biensch beat a MOB defender on a 1-on-1 shorthanded rush and tucked a forehand shot around Tanner Jaillet (Red Deer, AB) to bring the Bobcats within one. Overall, the power-play went 1 for 9 with one shorthanded goal allowed, squandering a 5-minute major power play in the first period by taking a hooking penalty in the middle of it as well.
“I think it’s a function of us not shooting the puck,” said Thibodeau of the man advantage unit. “Give their kill some credit; they’re very, very aggressive and if you don’t make tape-to-tape passes, it’s hard to break them down. The shorthanded goal at the end was a straight one-on-one where we get beat. It’s unfortunate, but shorthanded goals aren’t fun at anytime, but they’re more manageable in a win.”
The MOB will now prepare for a weekend home series against the last-place Drayton Valley Thunder with games on Friday and Saturday nights.
“It’s a bit of a disjointed week,” Thibodeau explained. “We don’t actually have ice until Wednesday, and we’ve got six guys going to Vancouver for the drug awareness program, so I’m hoping those distractions don’t get us off our game. We need to fight through that, find a way to have a good productive week, and make sure we’re ready to go.”
“It’s like I told them; let’s not be satisfied. Let’s continue to push and make sure that we’re pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone, and see if we can continue this next weekend.”
Game time both nights is 8:00 PM with pre-game coverage at 7:45 on Country 93.3.
Country 93.3 3 stars:
1. Jetlan Houcher (1 game-winning goal)
2. Lukas Biensch (1 shorthanded goal)
3. Mitchell Vanderlaan (1 goal)