With the unofficial midway point of the AJHL season behind us, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons are hoping to keep their foot on the gas.
Despite a pair of tough losses over the weekend in Brooks and Calgary, the Barons are still tops in the North Division and 2nd in the league with a 25-5-3 record.
Head Coach Tom Keca tells Mix News the goal for the New Year is just to make sure the team hits its stride, come playoff time.
“Playoffs are a totally different animal,” Keca said. “You’re dealing with short series, you’re dealing with other teams that didn’t maybe have the regular season they wanted and they can redeem themselves. So, it’s important to maintain that hunger, not only during the regular season but also in the playoffs.”
With an offense firing on all cylinders – the first half spoke volumes about the potential this Barons team possesses.
Will Conley and Reed Morrison lead the team with 35 points respectively and with 124 goals through 33 games, the Barons are good for fourth in the league, averaging just over 3.75 goals scored per game.
While the strong first half is a testament to the team’s ability, Keca notes they need to keep the momentum heading into the playoffs.
“We want to be able to put a product on the ice that our great fans in Fort McMurray can be proud of. We think we’re doing that. We turned the corner last year, we’re right where we sort of want to be this year and the onus is on us to keep pushing that bar and get better and better.”
The 25 wins at the midway point marks a far cry from two seasons ago, when the squad finished 10-40-10 in Keca’s first season behind the bench.
Keca says that heading into their final 2 games of the year, they hope to see that success carry over into 2018.
“Staying true to our system work and commitment that’s needed in order to be an elite team in arguably one of the best league’s across Canada. So, for us, it’s baby steps. We want to continue to get better and we want to make sure when March, April comes around in the first game of playoffs, we’re playing the best hockey we possibly can.”
The Barons host Sherwood Park for their final doubleheader of 2017, with games on December 29 and 30, at the Casman Centre.