Whoever made the Alberta Journey Hockey League (AJHL) schedule for the 2016-17 season should get some serious props as the battle for the Viterra North Division came down to the final game of the year.
The Fort McMurray Oil Barons earned the first round bye by defeating the Whitecourt Wolverines 3-2 Sunday.
The MOB scored three-straight goals from the end of the second to midway through the third, going up 3-1. Whitecourt’s Dawson Bruneski added a marker with seven and a half minutes left to draw his team within one, but it wasn’t enough.
Eric Szudor stopped 27 of 29 shots in the win, picking up his 27th of the year.
Ahead of the Sunday afternoon game, Fort McMurray sat at 89 points, while the Whitecourt Wolverines were at 88. The Wolverines needed a regulation win to claim the Division.
Earlier this weekend, the Oil Barons had two chances to clinch the division on both Friday and Saturday. First, they lost to the third-place Spruce Grove Saints Friday 5-3
The next night, the Oil Barons fell to the Drayton Valley Thunder, who were seven spots back in the standings and more than 50 points behind. The Thunder scored three straight goals in the final frame to keep the Wolverines’ division hopes alive.
Meanwhile, Whitecourt won their last five heading into the crucial meeting and had momentum. In February, the teams met up four times with Fort McMurray winning three, taking the division lead and not looking back.
The division title is huge for not only the Fort McMurray organization, but the city as a whole after last year’s fire disaster. A long run in the playoffs and potential league championship would go a long way.
The AJHL playoffs kick off on Thursday. Round two won’t commence until the following week, so the Oil Barons will have a well-earned break.
The breakdown for the playoffs is as follows:
No. 1 Fort McMurray Oil Barons - BYE
No. 2 Whitecourt Wolverines vs No. 7 Grand Prairie Storm
No. 3 Spruce Grove Saints vs No. 6 Drayton Valley Thunder
No. 4 Bonnyville Pontiacs vs No. 5 Sherwood Park Crusaders
No. 1 Brooks Bandits - BYE
No. 2 Canmore Eagles vs No. 7 Olds Grizzlys
No. 3 Calgary Canucks No. 6 Drumheller Dragons
No. 4 Okotoks Oilers vs No. 5 Camrose Kodiaks
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