By Tyler King
On the precipice of their first losing streak of the year, the Oil Barons found a way last weekend, capping off the AJHL Showcase with a big come-from-behind win over the Calgary Canucks, in one of the gutsier late games of the past few years.
The night prior, the Barons had fallen 4-3 to the Okotoks Oilers in a game that could easily have been a MOB win if not for a few mental lapses that led to two Okotoks goals in a 13-second span in the first period. A very strong final 40 minutes wasn’t quite enough for the Barons to overcome their early stumble.
The story looked like it would repeat itself the following afternoon as the MOB took to the ice against the Calgary Canucks. Tied 1-1 after one period, the Canucks found paydirt on a man wide open in the slot, taking a 2-1 lead just over a minute into the final frame. Time ticked away, and as the Barons began to take a commanding lead in shots, the tying goal refused to produce itself.
That was until the final two and a half minutes of the third. First, Adam Durkee, the MOB’s lone goal scorer, took a perfect centering pass from linemate Mitch Vanderlaan and snuck a quick shot into the Calgary net to tie things 2-2.
But with only 33 seconds showing on the game clock, a pair of Barons rookies took their turn to shine. Lloydminster native Shawn Weber, who hadn’t yet registered a point and had been a healthy scratch just two games ago, barreled his way past a Canuck defender to set up a 2-on-1 rush. He flicked a puck in front on his backhand, where waiting rookie Jackson McKinstry deflected it home to give the MOB a 3-2 lead and a dramatic win.
For head coach Curtis Hunt, it capped off a fantastic rebound weekend for Weber, after some earlier struggles.
“He’s a real cerebral player in terms of understanding exactly what he did wrong,” said Hunt of the 16-year old, who doesn’t turn 17 until December. He went to the tape, he came back, and I thought he played two real solid games. He put himself on the map, because there’s a lot of people watching, and there’s a little bit of pressure.”
Hunt had equal praise for McKinstry, one of three key off-season recruits from the Calgary Buffaloes minor hockey system.
“McKinstry’s been a solid guy for us right from the beginning of the year, just in terms of his position, his compete level, and his skill level,” said Hunt. “He’s a versatile player, because we’ve moved him from centre to right-wing, but he got rewarded finally tonight, and what a big goal with under a minute to go.”
Despite the team’s need for some late-game heroics, Hunt was effusive in his praise of the team’s 60-minute play.
“I don’t think we chased the game at all,” he said. “I thought we had our opportunities throughout the game; you’ve got to give their goaltender credit; he made some terrific saves.”
“I thought there were times we weren’t sharp around the net, but we’re still trying to feel our way around, shuffling the deck and the lines as I did again today.”
For those reasons, Hunt wasn’t prescribing any strong medicine for the team to get set for a major road trip against two key division rivals this weekend. The MOB travels to Spruce Grove for a rematch of the AJHL North final Friday, while taking on the high-flying Whitecourt Wolverines the following night.
“We’re going to stay the course with our game,” said the coach. “We’re going to be an assertive team. We want to play an aggressive style again, and keep going from there.”
Hunt also wasn’t fazed by the challenge of playing this eight game stretch in which seven of the games are away from the Casman Centre.
“To me, it doesn’t matter who we play,” he declared. “If we play that big, strong, heavy, physical game, we’ll create chances for ourselves.”
“And hopefully not wait until the last minutes of the game to get the win,” he briefly added.
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