After actively being a part of the Sherwood Park Crusaders for the past six years, Oil Barons Head Coach/General Manager Adam Manah is set to face off against his former team in the first round of the AJHL playoffs.
Manah joined the Oil Barons in mid-December after parting ways with the Crusaders and taking over for former HC/GM Gord Thibodeau, who resigned for personal reasons.
When asked to describe the upcoming series against his former squad, Manah had one word, “Ironic.”
In terms of gameplay and scouting, Manah said it definitely doesn’t hurt that he helped coach and recruit these kids to Sherwood Park.
“They made some changes at the trade deadline. For the most part, we know most of them, we’ve done our pre-scout. Rosie (Asst. Coach Justin Rose) has done an extremely good job cutting the video and now it’s up to the guys in terms of execution and getting out there and getting the job done.”
The MOB went 6-0 against the Crusaders during the regular season, outscoring Sherwood Park 30-13 through the six games.
Despite the regular-season success, Manah says his former team is going to pose some challenges in this best-of-seven series.
“They’re a good young team that has a lot of skill. Their defense will challenge you getting up the ice and activating. So we have to make sure we’re prepared on both sides of the puck,” said Manah
“Offensively, we have a heavier team that can hopefully wear ’em down. On the flip side, we have to make sure we manage pucks because their defence like to get up the ice and put pressure on us defensively whether it’s tracking or in our defensive zone.”
The Oil Barons will be without Forward Jared Miller, who the MOB acquired from the Lloydminster Bobcats at the trade deadline for Hassan Akl, after a fluke injury happened against Drayton Valley in the regular-season finale.
“He went to go finish a check along the wall, and as he was hitting his man, a skate came up and cut his leg,” said Manah on Miller’s injury, who is expected to be out for the entire playoffs.
Team depth has been a huge part of the Oil Barons success this year, and Manah said the likes of Pana Efaimidis, Brandon Sacchetti, and recent call-up from Leduc AAA Cade Mieklejohn, will all play a role moving forward.
Goaltender Josh Nadler is set to start game one for the Oil Barons Friday night, with Gabe Gratton getting game two Saturday night.
“We have a unique tandem, we have two guys who can step in and play. Both guys have earned their stripes and have split duties all year,” said Manah.
He said after game two, the Oil Barons will play it game-by-game in terms of which goalie to start.
Fort McMurray Oil Barons (40 W – 19 L – 1 OTL – 81 PTS)
Sherwood Park Crusaders (25 W – 30 L – 5 OTL – 55 PTS)
Game 1: Friday, March 4, 7:30 PM, Centerfire Place
Game 2: Saturday, March 5, 7:30 PM, Centerfire Place
Game 3: Tuesday, March 8, 7:15 PM, Sherwood Park Arena
Game 4: Wednesday, March 9, 7:15 PM, Sherwood Park Arena
Game 5*: Friday, March 11, 7:30 PM, Centerfire Place
Game 6*: Sunday, March 13, 7:15 PM, Sherwood Park Arena
Game 7*: Tuesday, March 15, 7:30 PM, Centerfire Place