If the Fort McMurray Oil Barons are a heavyweight in the Alberta Junior Hockey League you can call the Grande Prairie Storm a contender.
The Storm went toe-to-toe with the defending North Division champions on the weekend. And like Saturday in a 3-2 loss, the MOB got the last punch in in game two of the weekend doubleheader escaping Revolution Arena with a 6-5 win.
The winning blow Sunday came at 9:50 of the second period and was the 11th goal in a game that featured eight tallies in less than 14 minutes in the first frame.
“Fort McMurray is a team that scores goals fast and furious,” said Storm Head Coach/Assistant General Manager Matt Keillor. “We didn't do any favours and gave up some odd-man rushes and every turnover seemed to end up on (Reed) Morrison's stick and then in the back of the net.”
Morrison scored three goals including the second period game-winner.
“We made some adjustments in the neutral zone and that seemed to stop the bleeding,” said Keillor, who liked the play of his goaltender Charles-Olivier Levesque despite the six goals against. “Levesque gave us a chance to win late and we felt we had control of the third . . . but too little, too late.”
Morrison's winner, off a nice feed from Trevor Schroder, came after a sustained period of pressure in the MOB end where they had several chances, but not goals. The Barons escape the pressure and get one chance and score.
“Our guys need to produce when we have those opportunities . . . especially against teams like Fort McMurray,” said Keillor of the fact his club had seven powerplay chances, to Fort Mac's six, and just one goal with the man advantage. “You're usually not going to create a lot of scoring opportunities against their strong back end so you need to make sure you take advantage when they're down a man.”
The Storm got off to a 1-0 lead at 3:26 of the first on a powerplay goal by Michael Clarke, but the MOB roared back with three in less than three minutes. The first came from Curtis Roach (4:54 on the PP), followed by Morrison's first at 6:41 and then the 3-1 goal off the stick of Will Conley at 7:10.
And then to complete the period a goal trade off.
Edouard Michaud's first-ever in a Storm jersey at 8:03 made it 3-2; MOB went up by two again at 12:14 on Morrison's second; Connor Blake narrowed it to 4-3 for the Storm; and then Conley made it 5-3 with 2:57 to go.
PA announcer Don Whiteford still had enough energy 49 seconds into the second to announce Michaud's second goal that made it 5-4 and was happy to announce, at 6:39, that the Storm had tied the game at 5-5 when Justin Bernier scored his first-ever AJHL goal . . . . followed less than three minutes later when Morrison's game winner hit the back of the net.
The second half of the game featured no goals, but steady netminding by both 'keepers.
Lesvesque ended up facing 43 shots while the Storm fired 34 at Eric Szudor at the other end.
Next home action for the Storm is next weekend when the Drayton Valley Thunder are in town for games Saturday (7:30 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.).
Before then they have to head down the highway for games Tuesday in Bonnyville against the Pontiacs Tuesday and Wednesday in Lloydminster against the Bobcats.