Photo – Robert Murray:
(1) Fort McMurray Oil Barons vs. (2) Whitecourt Wolverines
Series tied 2-2
For the 240 minutes of action that have already taken place in this series, there is still much more the Barons and Wolverines feel like they have to write regarding their playoff fortunes. It’s for this reason that it feels like a shame that fans will only get three more games between the two this season.
The North Division final is down to a best-of-three after each team pulled out a split in their opponent’s buildings. Following a 7-1 drubbing at the hands of the Wolverines Monday, the MOB responded with a strong 5-1 effort Tuesday to even up the series and keep home-ice advantage in their favour.
It is an over-used cliché at this point, but this has become a series built on who can get more depth scoring. Players like Justin Young, Joesph Nardi, Liam Motley, Curtis Roach, Will Conley, and Brandon Ralph have all contributed their fair share of offence in the first four games of the series, but there have also been some pleasant surprises along the way.
Jackson McKinstry’s pair of goals came as his linemates of Brett Edwards and Hayden Ursulak continued to buzz in the series outside of Monday’s game three.
Erik Krienke may not be considered a depth player by any means, but he had two huge goals Monday, scoring early in the first and second periods to snap a five-game goalless streak and lead his team to victory.
Both teams also ended up turning to their backups, with Josh Williams coming in for Eric Szudor Monday and Sam-Jaxon Visscher replacing Pierce Diamond for the final period of Tuesday’s contest.
While it may be frustrating to not have a clearly established front-runner through more than half the series, that’s what has added to the fun factor in the series, with both teams still going for the knockout blow on each other.
How the MOB show up on home ice in game five will be critical, if that needed to be stated. They know how to follow up losses with strong efforts, but if they can carry the momentum from Tuesday into a win Friday at home, it will help them inch closer to closing out the series.
Similarly, the Wolverines won’t face a must-win status Friday, but will want to give themselves a chance to close out the series Sunday at home in front of a pumped-up fanbase that provided a strong atmosphere in games three and four. Keeping their power play going will be key in that. Their road power play in the series have scored on three of the seven (42.86 per cent) opportunities they’ve had so any chance in game five will have to be utilized.