CARROT RIVER, YORKTON, TISDALE — Last week was a busy and exciting one for Tisdale’s Darrell Mann.
It was announced that the former long-time Tisdale Trojans bench boss was heading back to the U18 AAA level as the head coach of the Yorkton Maulers. While Mann is jumping into that position to prepare the team for next season, he is also continuing his current job as the head coach of the Carrot River Outback Thunder and trying to lead that Junior B team to postseason success.
Over the weekend, the Outback Thunder went 1-1 against the Saskatoon Westleys in its Prairie Junior Hockey League’s best-of-seven Bob Dybvig Division semi-final series. After two seasons away from coaching, Mann joined the Carrot River squad just before the season when its head coach had to step away due to personal reasons.
“I can’t thank Carrot River enough. … It’s been an absolute blast,” he said. “I’ve had so much fun out there. The organization has been great. The players have been great, my general manager [Brennan Hall] and my assistant coach [Kolton Holmen] … I can’t say enough. It definitely has got my fire back for coaching.”
Focused on the PJHL playoffs, the Outback Thunder have yet to announce how their coaching staff will look going forward or its hiring process.
Mann said he had been talking to the Maulers organization for a couple of months. He said the opportunity was intriguing.
“I love the AAA age group of kids,” Mann said. “Being able to develop 15, 16, 17-year-old players. Being able to move them onto the [Western Hockey League] or the [Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League]. I love the competitiveness of the league. It’s such a tight league. It’s a fun league to be a part of.”
The Maulers are pleased to be able to bring in a veteran coach like Mann, whose resume includes leading the SJHL’s Melfort Mustangs.
“Darrell brings with him a keen eye for talent and is known for being an exceptional recruiter,” the team stated in a media release. “He brings a straightforward, honest, and passionate approach to coaching, centered on continuous improvement and joint accountability.”
This past season the Maulers compiled an 8-31-4 record. The team’s last season over .500 was 2015-16. Mann recalls when Yorkton had strong squads. He said it will be a challenge, but he is “definitely excited about it.”
“I really like the direction and I really like the vision this young GM Steven Silvernagle has for it,” Mann said.
He is looking forward to getting back to the daily involvement with hockey. Mann spent 16 years with the Trojans. He led the team to gold at the 2002 national championship – when it beat a Dartmouth Subways team with a 14-year-old Sidney Crosby – and the bronze medals in 2019. What will it be like for Mann to face his former team in Tisdale for the first time?
“So much fun. It’s going to be a lot of fun that day,” he said. “Definitely looking forward to it.”
Last Friday the Outback Thunder fell 2-1 in overtime in the opening game of their division semi-final. On Sunday, Carrot River won 4-2 at home with Chase Gallant lighting the lamp twice. The Westleys are the division’s second seed with a 26-11-3 regular season record, while Carrot River was third at 26-13-1. Before the series started, Mann said:
“The Westleys and us are really similar hockey teams. They got some depth up front, and they got some goaltenders that definitely cause us a little bit of grief. For us, we’re going to have to get lots of traffic in front of the net and lots of shots on net. Hopefully we can match them up front. I think it’s going to be a physical series. Whichever team maybe gets the breaks is going to be the most successful.”
The Outback Thunder swept its Survivor Series 2-0 against the Prince Albert Titans to advance to play the Westleys. They prevailed by scores of 5-1 and 8-1. The Outback Thunder did not allow the league’s leading scorer, Ben Zultok, to record a point. At the other end of the ice, 14 of Carrot River’s 18 skaters posted a point in the second game.
“I thought our depth was too much for them,” Mann said. “We came at them with four lines and six D. We had real solid goaltending also.”
The Outback Thunder has appreciated the backing of the community this season, the coach said.
“The support has been great. It’s been great for our players. Obviously, they like playing when they have a good crowd in the stands. That Carrot River area has been great for us.”