The Whitecourt Wolverines kicked off the start of the 56th season of the AJHL with a pair of homes games against North rivals, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons. The Wolverines would get off to a tough start spotting the Oil Barons three goals in the first 5 minutes of the contest.
Wolverines HC/GM Shawn Martin had to burn his teams only timeout early and had this to say about the decision.
“I think in that situation it was more about calming everyone down. Goals aside guys were having a hard time executing easy plays, you could see there was a lot of jitters.”
Martin added “As a coach, I didn’t get a feel that there was a lot of nervous energy until we got out there. I would like to have those first 5 minutes back but we can’t, so we’ll move past it.”
The Wolverines would cut into the deficit late in the third. Newly anointed Wolverines captain Tyler Mahan would pot the first Wolverines goal of the season off a patient back door pass on the 2 on 1 from Chase Broda. 20-year-old defenceman, Bryce Kilbourne, who made his AJHL debut would pick up the second assist and his first career point.
Wolverines starting netminder, William Grimard, who didn’t get much help in the first 5 minutes of play would shut the door the rest of the way.
Wolverines Associate Coach, Travis Clayton, had this to say about his goaltenders performance.
“He didn’t give up, he could have easily folded the tent right there but I thought he came up with some big saves, couple breakaway saves.”
Clayton adds “He kept us in the game and gave us a chance come back and tie it up or possibly win.”
What looked like a Spaghetti Western shootout would turn into a goaltenders dual through the second and third periods, both goaltenders shutting the doors the rest of the way for a 3-1 final.
Coming off of a 3-1 opening night loss the night before, the Wolverines were looking for revenge and like a Drake diss track they were going back-to-back against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons.
Heading into this matchup HC/GM Shawn Martin had this to say about what the Wolverines needed to do differently in game two.
“It’s hard to execute a game plan when you’re down three that early, we don’t want that to happen today, so we’re going to focus on the first 5 minutes and then we’ll go from there.”
After trading a couple of chances early in the first period the Wolverines trailed 10-3 on the shot clock but after Jayden Watson drew a tripping call the Wolverines went to work on the Power Play. Brennan Bott would take shot from the right circle that handcuffed MOB starting netminder Josh Nadler. Eventually the puck would come high to Wolverines captain Tyler Mahan who let a shot go through traffic from the point that would be re-directed for a goal by defenceman Tanner Komzak, acquired from Cowichan of the BCHL over the off-season. His first in the AJHL.
The Oil Barons would not take long to respond. After a turnover in the Wolverines zone Tristan Kimmen would hammer home a feed from Brandon Sacchetti to tie things up heading into the middle frame.
In the second the Oil Barons would pick up the lone goal, Brandon Sacchetti, would collect his second point of the night burying a feed from Nickolas de Beurs.
The Wolverines would claw back in the third period, Tyler Mahan picking up his third point and second goal of the season off a back door feed from Christiano Aiello.
That would be as close as the Wolverines got as Princeton commit Brendan Wang, would end up beating Grimard glove high and added the empty netter as the Oil Barons skated away with a 4-2 victory and a weekend series sweep.
Your Wolverines are next in action on the road September 24th and 25th against the Bonnyville Pontiacs (2-0-0), you can listen to the game on XM105.3 or watch online with HockeyTV.