HOME GAME 29 RECAP: Saints shutout 1-0 to end regular season.
By: Adam Kulak
It was a physical tight checking game, but the Saints couldn’t solve Fort McMurray’s defensive structure as they would have their win streak snapped at 9. Lineup notes for this game, Logan Acheson and Grahame Gamache would suit up again in this one and Cole Basnett would draw back in after missing a couple games. Liam McCloskey would get his 22nd start of the season, he has won his last 3 starts and will look for his 4th straight this afternoon.
It was a bit of a back and forth period as both teams controlled the play at certain points in the opening 20. The Saints had a good start to the game, they established a forecheck with good support, they either forced the Oil Barons to turn it over or put it off the boards and out to centre. They came close a few times to getting on the board, Saretsky appeared to have a goal as the puck was thought to have just crossed the line but the ref thought that Fort Mac just cleared it off and the game would remain scoreless. Things started getting heated later in the period, Dylan Bourlai would take a knee on knee hit from Jarred White cutting into the slot, Fyten would go after White and that started a big line brawl. When play resumed after that, the Oil Barons started to take control of the game a little bit. They started hemming the Saints into their own zone and had them on their heels. But the Saints regrouped after that and the period would end scoreless, shots were even at 9-9 in the period.
The Saints threw a lot of pucks on net in the second period, but they couldn’t get a lot of second and third opportunities as Fort Mac’s defense did a good job of clearing the slot area. They also defended the neutral zone well disrupting the Saints transition game. The Saints had success earlier in this game making two or three passes in their own zone to breakout, but they were also trying a lot of stretch plays that would either end up in icings or the Oil Barons picking the play off. They had two powerplays early in the period but had a hard time getting into the zone and setting up. The Oil Barons would open the scoring at 13:55 of the period. A failed clearing attempt comes right back at the net and Ryan Conroy would get the rebound, making it 1-0. With a few seconds left in the period, Gable would get an interference penalty and the Saints would carry a powerplay into the final 20 minutes.
The Saints threw everything they had on net in the third period, trying to get chances in and around the net. Fort McMurray was rock solid defensively in this game, not giving the Saints very much room at all to transition up ice or getting rebounds in the offensive zone. They were very good with their sticks, breaking up a ton of passes in the neutral zone and offensive zone passes through the slot. The Saints couldn’t get anything going on their powerplays and had a tough time exiting their zone cleanly. The Saints outshot them 35-22 but Josh Dias and the defense core hung on. With McCloskey on the bench, the Saints couldn’t quite find the equalizer as the Oil Barons would snap their win streak at 9.
That is it for the regular season, we will be back this Thursday to kick off the AJHL Playoffs. The Saints will welcome the Drayton Valley Thunder Thursday and Friday for Game 1 and 2 of their best of 5 Round 1 series. Game time for both games is 7:00 PM here at the Grant Fuhr Arena.