After a season full of high expectations – the Fort McMurray Oil Barons are cleaning out their lockers earlier than hoped.
Heading into the second round of the AJHL playoffs the team had a lot of confidence after sweeping the Bonnyville Pontiacs, however, they found themselves facing a team that’s had a history of ending their season – the Whitecourt Wolverines.
After falling behind 3-1 in their series, the MOB won the next two games forcing a Game 7. Excitement quickly turned to frustration after a shot from the boards snuck through the legs of Goaltender Eric Szudor, losing the game in overtime, 4-3.
“After the loss, nothing that I said was gonna make a difference, we really didn’t say anything,” said Head Coach Tom Keca.
In his mind, special teams played the biggest differences. The MOB failed to score a powerplay goal in the series while the Wolverines scored four.
After a year that saw the team make the North Final, losing in the second round was tough to swallow.
“I felt like last year that we overachieved, this year I think we underachieved – you always want to take a step forward and our aspirations were to go further but it didn’t work out that way.”
The team will also be saying goodbye to six players, all continuing their careers and education at post-secondary schools.
Eric Szudor, Will Conley, Shane Fraser, Curtis Roach, JC Thivierge, and Coy Prevost.
“Those guys gave everything they could, not only on the ice but whether it was in the community, they’re great role models and their leadership that they leave here will benefit the groups to come. We hope we’ve helped them out, not only, become better hockey players but better individuals.”
Keca says he’s got high hopes for next year. He likes the core of players expected to come back and has a lot of trust in their scouting team to find players to fill the vacant spots on the roster.