By Tyler King
Much like last season, when the Oil Barons began the season on a torrid winning pace, the phrase “all good things must come to an end” took effect for the MOB this past weekend. It just happened to come five games in instead of fifteen.
After rhyming off another two wins, a shootout victory in Lloydminster on Wednesday and then a dominant 4-0 shutout behind 39 saves from Zach Fortin on Friday in Grande Prairie, the Barons fell 6-3 to the Storm, trailing by as much as a 6-1 margin through two periods.
The game got away from the Barons soon after they took a 1-0 lead on a Zach Wittenburg point shot. Multiple attempts to tally a second goal were denied when the Storm’s goalie sent the easily-dislodged net flying off of its moorings. The multiple net dislodgements didn’t sit well with head coach Curtis Hunt after the game.
“In all my years of hockey, I’ve never seen a goalie dislodge the net five times within a two-minute power play, including a three-on-one, and there’s no warning,” said Hunt, questioning why there was no crackdown by the referee on it.
“That was a little frustrating, certainly, for me as a coach, but in the end I thought we let others in power control our emotions, instead of taking charge of our own game.”
But despite the frustration leading to a five-goal deficit, Hunt was quick to defend his team’s overall play.
“All we did was just go over the line, that’s all. I like the way that we’re competitive, [and] I like the way that we’re passionate and fiery about it,” he said.
Counting the net dislodgements, and a few other scoring chances that the MOB fired wide of the net, the game could’ve easily been much closer.
“When I really think about that score, we had at least 4 or 5 great opportunities that could have made a big difference in that game,” he said. “That was a pretty good week on the road for us; we’ll take two of three every time. Now we’ve got an opportunity to come home, rest up, and get a good week of practice in preparation for a big home weekend.”
That home weekend gives the Barons a chance to further extend their first place positioning in the AJHL’s North division. They’ll host the Olds Grizzlys on Saturday night, followed by a Sunday afternoon matinee against the resurgent Canmore Eagles.
Unlike this past week, where the Barons had to hit the road on a Tuesday, the MOB will have the full week to practice and refine their play, including integrating newcomers Trent Lofthouse and Michael Sauer into the coaches’ systems.
“We’ll look at every area; there isn’t any one specific thing,” said Hunt about the week’s agenda. “You build a team from your goaltender out, so we’ll do a lot of d-zone and penalty kill. But you’re dealing with kids; you’ve got to do skill development, you’ve got to play with tempo, and practice with tempo.”
This year was only the second time in the last ten seasons that the Barons have won their first four consecutive games; the only other being last season’s record-setter. That fact wasn’t lost on the coach despite a single lopsided loss.
“We’ll cover just about everything this week through practice, and we’ll have some fun as well, because our guys have earned that,” said Hunt.
“Eight of the ten available points – we’ll take that all year.”
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