“The break couldn’t come at a better time,” those were the first words out of Head Coach Tom Keca’s mouth when asked about his thoughts on Sunday’s 6-0 drubbing by the Calgary Canucks.
The MOB’s largest defeat of the season thus far and second time they have been shutout in the last six games.
“We’ve obviously hit a road block here and it’s tough because it comes at this time when this is a crucial weekend for us but when you look at December as a whole, we’re 3-5 in our last eight games and we didn’t beat a team with a record over .500,” said Keca on his team’s performance this month.
Losses to Bonnyville, Spruce Grove, Brooks and the Canucks has contributed to the Oil Barons (24-10-1) sliding down the North Division standings to fourth. The MOB’s only wins in that stretch have come against the Calgary Mustangs and Drayton Valley Thunder who have a combined 14 wins.
“We have to understand that to be in the upper echelon you have to compete. I didn’t like the fact that we got bounced off of a lot of pucks, we got our pocket picked quite a bit and that’s a choice, that’s nothing else and that’s a willingness to compete so that bothers me,” said Keca who’s team has scored just five goals in those five losses.
“While everybody else marveled at our offence at the start of the year, it’s dried up. Our powerplay is 1-28 now (in the last 8 games) and that’s something that we can change now as we have this break. As a coaching staff we’ll have to evaluate and do we change something systematically.”
The Oil Barons had a much better first ten minutes of the game then in the first two games of the road trip which saw the MOB trailing 2-0 five minutes in. However it would be the Canucks (23-12-2) striking first at 16:23 of the frame when Dylan Williamson streaked down the left wing and wired a shot past Eric Szudor.
As the game wore on, things only got worse for the Barons. Allan MacPherson’s point shot beat a screened Szudor 3:11 into the second period to double up the Canucks lead. It was then two more point shots beating Szudor 1:36 apart to open up a 4-0 lead before the period was out. Josh Giacomin and Kyler Magus would get credit for the goals.
“Those goals can’t go in, there’s no compete on his end to see through screens and when you have four point shots that beat you…we talk about our players competing on 200 feet of the ice, you also expect your goaltender to compete net front to make sure he can see shots but I just didn’t see that from him and a lot of other guys today,” said Keca on the compete level of Szudor we stopped 15 of 19 shots in the loss.
Josh Williams would come into the game in replace of Szudor and stopped nine of 11 shots faced. Coby Mack and Williamson would beat Williams in the third period. Williams had to leave the game with just under eight minutes left in the third period after a collision with teammate Nicholas Nietubyc. Williams laid on the ice for several minutes before being helped off.
The Barons will return to action December 30th in Grande Prairie before heading to Spruce Grove on the 31st. Their next home action is January 7th when they host the Camrose Kodiaks at the Casman Centre.
The holiday break is upon us but the next big date to keep an eye on is the upcoming CJHL trade deadline on January 10th. The Oil Barons currently have 22 players on their roster and have three cards available to acquire players.
“As a coaching staff we’ll sit down and try to figure out areas where we really need to address,” said Keca on what his plans are for the deadline. “Now it’s a balancing act on how much do we add right now, do you sacrifice the future? Those are all questions that we’ll have to sit down and ask.”
One player who could be signed to a card is forward Dylan Rauh. The Colorado native rejoined the team this week after missing the first half of the season recovering from sports hernia surgery. Rauh had five goals and 10 points in 46 games last year for the Barons.
“Our goal is always to make this team as competitive as we can. Our organization has always had a motto of just worry about right now and I think we owe it to the players in that room especially the 20 year olds to make this team as strong as we can for this year.”
Tom Keca on the Country 93.3 post game show.