Main camp provides lots of tough decisions for MOB coaching staff

Thirty-Eight players hit the ice this past weekend at the Casman Centre as the Fort McMurray Oil Barons held their main camp and the annual Blue-Gold game.

Expectations for the MOB are high this year as the team looks to build off a 44 win season and a trip to the North Division final.

The MOB will have 12 returning players which means there are lots of opportunities for some of the new faces in camp to crack the roster.

“We were impressed with the speed as a coaching staff. We have some very quick and shifty young players, some who will fight for positions this year but also in the future,” said Head Coach and General Manager Tom Keca. “We like the foundation that we have so far and I think with the addition of some of our recruits and some of the younger players, the future is obviously bright for the organization.”

The Barons strength this season looks to be on the back-end with four returning defencemen in 20 year olds Curtis Roach, JC Thivierge, Kyler Newman as well as 19 year old Taner Miller. Two young towering defencemen are looking to join the MOB back-end in Gunner Kinniburgh (Lethbridge, AB) and Blake Howard (Coto de Caza, CA, USA). The two d-men both signed a letter of intent this off-season.

Eric Szudor will once again be the main man between the pipes with Chris Curr (St. Albert, AB), Lane Hartwell (Sherwood Park, AB) and Ashton Abel (Fort McMurray, AB) trying to win the back-up role.

Up-front, Ryan Cox, Will Conley, Jack Hamly and Shane Fraser will lead the offence with Liam Izyk, Jarred White and Nicholas Leeseberg taking on bigger roles in their second Alberta Junior Hockey League seasons.

“We were extremely happy with some of the work that our players put in, in the off-season. I thought that our veterans were very good, for the most part came back in excellent shape,” said Keca.

The Blue-Gold game gave fans their first opportunity to see some of the new younger players. Team Blue came away with a 5-2 victory. 2001- born Ethan Jamernik (Calgary, AB) scored a pair of goals while White, Cox and Andrew Petten (Fort McMurray, AB) scored the others for Team Blue.

1999-born Jackson Verstraete (Calgary, AB) scored both goals for Team Gold. Verstraete and his Calgary Midget AAA North Stars teammate Tyler Alger both signed letters of intent with the MOB in July.

The MOB will head to Camrose on Wednesday to play three games in an exhibition tournament. Keca says he plans to bring roughly 30 players to Camrose.

“It’s an opportunity for our players, not only our young players but also our veteran players to get their first opportunity to showcase for NCAA scouts. There will be some schools there so for us I think it will be a delicate balance between seeing some of the younger players in action but also giving our veterans an opportunity to showcase themselves,” said Keca.

The Barons will wrap-up their exhibition schedule at home with a pair of games against the Bonnyville Pontiacs on September 6th and 8th.

Written by – Taylor Pope,