Story Coming In:
Despite going winless in the preseason, there is plenty of optimism within the Oil Barons organization. Even with several new faces, this year’s team looks to contain a blend of skill and grit, which leaves many inside the organization believing Fort McMurray could be a dangerous team. Offense will be led by the Arnold brothers (both acquired from Sherwood Park), while players like Jason Huang and Anthony Campbell could prove dangerous throughout the season. Gabe Gratton is expected to be the team’s backbone in goal, while the defense will lean on the veterans in Simon Diaz, Nolan Kazeil and Liam Rodman. Revenge may be on the mind of the Oil Barons to start the season, as they start in the same place where last year ended, Randy Rosen Rink. A win over the Crusaders would be sweet, while an upset of Spruce Grove would be the perfect start to the 2023/24 season.
View From Sherwood Park and Spruce Grove:
If there is one word to describe Sherwood Park’s preseason, it would be explosive. The Crusaders scored at least six goals in every game, except for one, en route to a 5-1 record. Offense will be the name of the game for Sherwood Park under new head coach Brennan Menard, but don’t underestimate the goaltenders. Erick Roest is a solid option in net, as is Robert Morris University commit, Elliott Pratt. Spruce Grove also went 5-1 in the preseason, with the lone blemish a 6-2 loss to Camrose. Speed kills in hockey, and the Saints have it in spades. With plenty of depth and excellent additions in Trey Fechko and Ryder Matter, Spruce Grove is expected to be a contender once again. The only question mark might be their goaltender, where injuries have struck in the past.
Return of the Arnolds:
The opening weekend of a season is always big, but for three Oil Barons, it could be their biggest one yet. Cody Nordstrom, Evan and Ryan Arnold were acquired from the Sherwood Park Crusaders, a team they face on the road to start the 2023/24 season. All three are excited to go against their former teammates and prove why they are stellar players in the AJHL. For the Arnold brothers, this weekend will also see them play in their hometown of Spruce Grove, against a Saints team they know all too well. Throw in that Friday is Ryan’s 100th career AJHL game, and there’s no shortage of storylines to open the season. The key will be to treat this weekend as any other in the AJHL.