The Blackfalds Bulldogs and Fort McMurray Oil Barons geared up for a Friday night clash, fresh off victories in their previous games. The Oil Barons defeated the Canmore Eagles 5-4 on Wednesday, while the Bulldogs crushed the Grizzlys 9-2 on Tuesday. Blackfalds looked to make it four straight wins and pick up their first victory over the Oil Barons on the season, with Fort McMurray winning 3-2 on home ice back on October 7.
Both teams traded minor penalties early on in the first period, and the Bulldogs notched the first goal on the man advantage. Jayden Joly took a pass from Brendan Ross and took it to the middle of the ice, changing the angle before firing a perfect wrist shot over the glove of Andrew Ness and straight into the top corner. However, it took the Oil Barons less than three minutes to find an equalizing goal. A perfectly executed three-on-two rush resulted in Olivier Lamonthe tipping in Austin Spiridakis’ hard cross-ice pass to tie the game up at one apiece.
In the second period, both teams’ defenses shut down the opposition’s attacks. That, paired with the superb play of both Ness in the Fort McMurray goal and Charlie Zolin in the Blackfalds zone, made high-danger offensive chances hard to come by. However, in the last minute of the middle frame, Blackfalds would break through and re-take their lead. An errant pass behind the Fort McMurray goal led to a turnover, and Jason Siedem quickly found Otto Hanson in front of the net. Hanson chipped the puck over Ness’ glove, giving the Bulldogs the lead back and notably earning Hanson his first AJHL goal.
The tight-checking game continued into the third period, with the Bulldogs able to shut down most of the Oil Barons’ offensive opportunities. Any time Fort McMurray managed to subvert the Bulldogs’ defensive efforts long enough to generate a scoring chance, the razor-sharp Charlie Zolin was there to not only stop every shot the Oil Barons sent his way but was able to prevent any rebound opportunities from reaching Fort McMurray sticks. The Oil Barons pulled Andrew Ness for an extra attacker with just over two minutes to play in the third period, and despite Blackfalds squandering opportunities to put the game to bed into the empty net, Zolin and the Bulldogs stood strong enough to prevent Fort McMurray from finding a late goal to tie the game. Blackfalds’ 2-1 victory means they will split the season series with Fort McMurray, both winning one game each.
Charlie Zolin earned the first star of the game, making 28 saves on 29 shots in his sixth win of the season. Blackfalds win their third straight game and have now won seven of their last eight games, capping off an impressive October. The Bulldogs start their November with back-to-back home games next weekend, first hosting the Calgary Canucks on Friday, November 4 followed by the Sherwood Park Crusaders on Saturday, November 5.