by Tyler King
A crowd of nearly 1,600 at the Casman Centre erupted into one of its loudest ovations of the year on Friday night, as veteran forward Stefan Burzan, in the midst of the announcement of the Oil Barons’ tying goal against Okotoks that night, fired a low wrist shot past the AJHL’s league-leading goalie Nic Renyard, to cap off a dramatic comeback and secure a 5-4 regulation win for the Barons over the Oilers.
It capped off a 98-second span in which the MOB scored 3 goals, to rebound from a 4-2 deficit they faced with just 9 minutes left in the game.
“It was just a battle down low,” said the Surrey, B.C. native Burzan of the goal. “I just put myself in a position where, if the puck were to squeak out, then I could turn around and shoot it quickly. I was just aiming low; at the minimum I wanted at least a rebound, but sure enough it went in.”
“I’m just so happy that we came back from two goals down with nine minutes left; to be able to put the game-winner in on top of that makes it that much better.”
Though the team trailed late, it hadn’t been significantly outplayed by the Oilers, who had beaten the MOB by a 5-1 margin the last time the two had tangled. Burzan, whose resume includes a march through the Western Canada Cup and to the RBC Cup national championship with the Surrey Eagles, as well as parts of two seasons with the very same Okotoks organization he helped defeat on Friday, lauded the team’s perseverance in the face of some terrible puck luck.
“It just shows how much character we have in our group,” he said. “This isn’t the first time we’ve come over a deficit like that. Going into the third, we didn’t hang our heads at all, we just kept plugging away, we knew we were getting those chances, and there are some where it’s going to hit a stick or a post, but that can’t happen all the time. Sooner or later those are going to start going in.”
They did start to go in, and quickly. But making the comeback all the more impressive was the fact that the Barons did it without two of their biggest offensive weapons, Mitch Vanderlaan and Trent Lofthouse, in the lineup. Both forwards were injured, forcing the Barons to dress 11 forwards instead of the usual 12. But according to Burzan, fatigue never became a factor.
“If you’re not tired by the third period, that just shows you’re not working hard enough,” he said. “We just kept plugging away. We didn’t let our stamina get in the way of that.”
As for the crowd reaction when his goal found the back of the net, like many Oil Barons players this season, Burzan lauded the fans’ enthusiasm.
“I couldn’t hear anything; it was just white noise, honestly. It was so fired up, and the boys got so fired up from the crowd, it was just awesome,” he recalled. “To do what we did, and not even send it into overtime, it’s just awesome.”
Burzan was a late addition to the MOB roster, joining the team in mid-October after a stint with the Coquitlam Express in the BCHL. His experience at the first-ever WCC and experience at a national championship were cited as key factors by head coach Curtis Hunt.
“Coming in here, I knew I had to play a big role,” said Burzan. “As an overage player, there’s a lot of – not pressure – but expectation. For me, being at the top and being so close to that RBC Cup, I just want to be back there, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes game in and game out to get another shot at the national championship.”
But that dream was sidetracked and nearly derailed by an injury in late November that kept Burzan out until just after the trade deadline on January 10th.
“It was a tough injury, but you have to keep positive,” Burzan said. “As hard as it is watching games, knowing that you could put in an effort and try to better the team, I’m just thrilled to be back.”
And if he can continue to contribute in the clutch like he did on Friday night, there’s no question that fans will be just as thrilled as he is to see #11 back in the lineup.
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