The only (so far) 1-0 teams go head-to-head tonight at the Casman Centre in Fort McMurray, on Day 2 of the 2015 Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup. The Vees and Fort McMurray Oil Barons are coming off opening night wins on Saturday.
Face-off 7:30pm MT / 6:30pm PT on EZ Rock AM 800
The Vees trounced the Sprove Grove Saints 11-3 and some might say the MOB surprised the RBC Cup host Portage Terriers 3-1. That was Fort McMurray’s first game since March 9th, when they were knocked out of the first round of the AJHL playoffs. It was also the Portage Terriers first loss of any kind since February 20th.
The Vees got off to a dream start Saturday afternoon, as they scored twice in the first minute of the game and put up five on Spruce Grove in the first period. They kept it going in the second period, scoring four more to build up a commanding 9-0 lead through forty-minutes. They potted a pair in the third period to hit double-digits for the third time this year and the first time since Halloween night.
Gabe Bast and Tyson Jost paced the attack for the Vees. Bast had a team-best five points (1-4-5) and Jost was named the Vees Player of the Game, after bagging a hat-trick and finishing with four points. Eight Vees had two or more points and three finished with three or more in the lopsided win.
Both teams have Monday off after tonight, as the Vees will play Portage on Tuesday afternoon and the MOB will be their North Division rivals, the Spruce Grove Saints later that night.
Oil Baron Leaders
Regular Season Playoffs
Goals: 39 Jetlan Houcher Goals: 2 Jetland Houcher
Assists: 32 Jetlan Houcher Assists: 3 Trent Lofthouse
Points: 71 Jetlan Houcher Points: 4 Jetland Houcher, Trent Lofthouse
PPG: 12 Jetlan Houcher PPG: 1 Jetland Houcher, Trent Lofthouse
SHG: 2 Jetland Houcher SHG: 1 Mitchell Vanderlaan
PIMS: 194 Zach McNeil PIMS: 10 Zach McNeil, Landon Welykholowa
As you can see, former West Kelowna Warrior Jetlan Houcher carried the load for the MOB this season, as the nominee for the AJHL MVP award led the Barons in pretty much every statistical category except for penalty-minutes. Houcher, 20, led the AJHL in goal-scoring with 39 goals in the regular season and had two more in the Oil Barons four-game series loss to Sherwood Park in the playoffs.
Houcher is one of three forwards on the MOB that is committed to an NCAA Division l program. Houcher is set to join the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers next year, and Mitchell Vanderlaan and Luke Lalor have an open commitment to Cornell University.
Fort McMurray has three former major junior players on their roster, including star goaltender Zach Fortin. The former Cape Breton Screaming Eagle of the QMJHL was excellent in the regular season, posting a 20-16-4 record with a 2.72 goals-against average, and an impressive .924 save-percentage. Those numbers caught the attention of the AJHL, as Fortin was a finalist for the Goaltender of the Year award.
The MOB did have a couple departures between the start of the playoffs and the WCC, as 20-year-olds Stefan Burzan (former Surrey Eagle & Victoria Grizzly) and Will Tomchuk parted ways with the team.
It was 47 days between their AJHL playoff exit and last night’s WCC opener but the Oil Barons showed rust was no issue by knocking-off the Portage Terriers. Now they’ll certainly be that much more confident ahead of their match up with the Vees.
Western Canada Cup Playoffs
Goals: 3 Tyson Jost Goals: 10 Tyson Jost
Assists: 4 Gabe Bast Assists: 13 Demico Hannoun
Points: 5 Gabe Bast Points: 21 Demico Hannoun
It was a great start Saturday but just that-a start. The Vees can’t and likely won’t be resting on last night’s big win over Spruce Grove. The Vees know that the tournament won’t be that easy and Saturday might be more of a one-off than anything.
The MOB are fresh, and hungry to prove that they can hang with the four western champions and last night’s win was a big step in doing so. Portage, who breezed through the MJHL regular season and playoffs, were upended by the upstart MOB, as Landon Welykholowa opened the scoring in the second and Isaac Ceh and Trent Lofthouse (empty-net), also bagged goals for the MOB.
The Vees will need to bring their ‘A’ game once again and a win would make them the first 2-0 team at the WCC. You don’t want to get ahead of yourself, but a 2-0 start puts you in great position to at least see yourself through to the playoff round.
The Vees had a lot of success on Saturday with their quick transition game, as they caught the Saints a few times on odd-man rushes and a couple of those yielded goals. The Vees will need more of that tonight, as the MOB will be bringing a lot of energy and in front of a partisan crowd at the Casman Centre.
There shouldn’t be any changes to the Vees line-up, as Hunter Miska will get the start and Lewis Zerter-Gossage will play his second game in as may days, after being sidelined for over a month with an upper-body injury.