by Curtis J Phillips
It was the blue screen of death for the Spruce Grove Saints as they lost tonight 5-4 to the host Fort McMurray Oil Barons in Day 4 of the 2015 Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup (WCC) held at the Casman Centre.
About two minutes into the third period the centre-ice scoreboard screen went blue on all four sides.
No score. No time. No live game video. Just blue.
The last (WCC) game the Oil Barons played, a 6-0 loss Sunday to the Penticton Vees, the same scoreboard had difficulties with the live game video still streaming but the score not showing.
That game was held up for five minutes before the scoreboard was fully operational. But it really did not matter as the Vees were in full control of the contest.
This time around the officials did not waste time with play only stopped momentary….the Barons till leading 5-4.
The blue screen of death would remain the rest of the game with the PA announcer periodically informing the fans in attendance the time left in the game with a final countdown of seven, six, five, four, three, two….bringing the sound of the final buzzer.
The opening period against the Saints, winners of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, looked like a repeat of the Vees game, where the Okanagan crew scored four goals against the Oil Barons in the opening 5:44. This time behind goals from Tyler Busch (2:54), Riley Simpson (5:28 power play), Travis McEvoy (8:38) and Parker Mackay (12:00 shorthanded) the Saints were up 4-0 at the 12:00 mark.
Digging hard against the boards with three Saints players surrounding him, Oil Barons Adam Durkee never gave up and lying prone on the ice passed the puck to teammate Austin Holmes out front. Holmes held the puck for a second or two allowing Durkee to regain his feet and passed it back with the 5-foot-11 forward from Nederland, Colorado beating Saints goalie Matthew Murray to the open left side at 17:59.
Nearly two minutes later, on a power play with Saints Macklin Pichonsky out for a double minor for spearing, Durkee brought the Oil Barons faithful to their feet with a blast from the slot going high to beat Murray with 7.9 seconds on the clock. Saints 4 Oil Barons 2.
Oil Barons offense took charge at the start of the middle frame.
With Oil Barons on the power play and Trent Lofthouse situated in front with the puck, the Saints settling into a defensive shell, Oil Barons president Len Clarke yells out, “Shoot it son!”, to which the 6-foot-3 veteran from Surrey. B.C. responds, narrowing the Saints lead 4-3
Clarke pumps his fist and responds “Yeah!” to the goal scored at 1:09.
Oil Barons strong fore checking leads to the tying goal with Isaac Ceh skating in for the goal at 2:04.
Saints coach Jason McKee calls timeout to regroup.
Clarke responds: “We have them rattled.”
The winning goal comes from the stick of Durkee recording his hat trick at 5:02 on a power play.
In a scoreless third period, majority of it with the blue screen of death hovering overhead, Saints goalie Murray was pulled with 56 seconds left on the….oops….since there was no clock showing….Murray was pulled with 56 seconds left on the timekeepers clock.
Murray stopped 29 shots in the loss while Zach Fortin earned the win turning away 32 shots. Barons were three for seven on the power play.
Durkee was Player of the Game for the Oil Barons with Tyler Busch getting the nod for the Saints.
Attendance was announced at 894 although the stands were only about 30% filled.
Oil Barons also broke the jinx which saw the Saints beat them on their home ice the last three occasions in AJHL regular season action.
Saints, winless in WCC play, are now eliminated from the championship round.
In the other game played today the Vees lost to the Portage Terriers.
Play continues Wednesday with a single game as the Vees play the Melfort Mustangs at 7:30 p.m.
Oil Barons return to Casman Centre Thursday with a puck drop at 7:30 p.m. versus Mustangs.