Wednesday, October 1, 2008

"Meet The Coaches" Thoughts

*Kyle Bangen discussed the challenges of preparing such a large freshman class for the rigors of WCHA hockey. He did a good job explaining what he did, including working with the new players via phone and e-mail, until they arrived for the start of a rigorous August conditioning program that the whole team took part in. The entire month went very well, as everyone on the team held themselves and their teammates accountable for their conditioning responsibilties.

Someone asked Kyle, "You stated when you were first hired that your goal was to ensure that Jamie was coaching the best-conditioned team in the entire conference. Do you feel you've attained that goal?"

He pointed back to the end of the 06-07 campaign, when the Huskies defeated Colorado College on the road in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. "In the third period of the Sunday game, I believe that CC registered only two shots on goal, and we basically skated them out of their own arena, so if you had asked me then, I would have said yes." However, Kyle went on to explain that this season, with nine freshman on the roster, such an assertion would probably be too bold at the moment. Nonetheless, he will work hard to ensure that while Tech may not necessarily be the best-conditioned team in the league this season, we will certainly remain among the top half.

*The assistants discussed our recruits for Fall 2009, including Steven Seigo, Tommy Brown, Evan Witt, Jake Hauswirth, Anthony Schooley, and Jacob Johnstone.

  • Seigo, a defenseman, received special permission from the NC$$ to practice with an Austrain Elite team over the summer (one his father apparently works for), and while he wasn't permitted to scrimmage with them, the experience seems to be paying dividends. Seigo already has a 7-7-14 line though 9 regular season games in his second season with the Bonnyville Pontiacs of the AJHL, including 5 PPG.
  • Defenseman Brown will be playing with Melfort of the SJHL again this season, and while his team is allegedly not as stacked as it was last season, his coaches report that he has taken on a leadership role up there and is doing well.
  • Witt is a C/W who will be playing his second season with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs of the BCHL, and after posting an 11-24-35 line with them in his rookie season, expectations for him will be higher. Coaches Mikesch and Tok mentioned that at 5'11" and 190 lb. he's already filling out his frame pretty well and they're excited to bring him in next year.
  • Much buzz surrounded Hauswirth (a LW) this summer, who was a surprise standout at the Washington Capitals' rookie dev camp. He received quite a bit of media attention and there was even discussion of the Caps trying to sign him and send him off to MJ, but thankfully that was averted. Hauswirth will begin his second season with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL, after winning the national championship with them last year. His coaches report that he is expected to wear a letter and perform well all year long as a leader and a scorer.
  • Jacob Johnstone and Anthony Schooley (both fowards) will be playing together in Green Bay this year, after Schooley received a trade from Waterloo. In spite of Johnstone's numbers on a poorly coached Gamblers team last season, Tech's coaches feel that he has great vision out on the ice, is excellent on the powerplay, and possesses a "lethal shot". Schooley's USHL career has been dogged by two unfortunate injuries, leaving him on IR for much of the past year and a half. He is just now getting back out on the ice after recovering from his second injury, and naturally is not anywhere near 100%, however Tok and Mikesch explained that they still feel he's got good hockey sense, does a nice job of getting open for passes/shots, and has pretty good hands. Hopefully he can get back up to speed with a fresh start on a new team this season (including a new coaching staff, if I'm not mistaken).

*Russell talked about the recruiting situation, and how a few years ago, they were going after mostly the character players (Malekoff, Batovanja, etc.), whereas now they are starting to pick up more skill players (Kattelus, Soley, etc.). With this in mind, it would appear that recruiting is looking brighter each year, and based on the last couple of classes, I would agree.

*Somewhat in relation to the above, Russell also mentioned that they are now gradually tweaking the style of our game to focus more on puck possession.

*With regards to this season, Jamie was very clear that Nolan must step up to the plate and make this his year. He's done his time playing second fiddle to Teslak, and now it's his turn to help lead by having a solid, consistent season. He is expected to be between the pipes for a majority of the minutes, as long as he plays well enough.

*Finally, I commend Russell for taking a stand against the use of shootouts in college hockey, and concur with his logic that hockey is first and foremost a team sport, not a sport of one skater's talent versus a goaltender's reflexes. Russell also pointed out that while shootouts may work in the NHL with their 80-some game schedule, college hockey schedules are simply too short for the idea to be viable. The example he gave is thus...

"Say we go out to North Dakota, a pretty tough place to play, and manage to take 3 of 4 points from them that weekend - that's significant. Now consider if North Dakota picked up a shootout win on Saturday, rather than the teams just skating to a tie. In that case, they pick up two points, and the three we get suddenly have less impact on our place in the standings." Jamie is right - with a regular season schedule of 38 games or less, shootout victories would significantly impact the regular season standings for every team in the league, much more so than in the NHL, where teams have a greater chance of making up some of those points down the road.

Following a few quick thoughts on the Toronto series, the meeting broke into a couple tour groups, and I took a facilities tour that included a skating treadmill demonstration courtesy of Kyle Bangen and freshman Seth Soley (who seems to have nice stride and acceleration, I might add), and a peek into the locker & weight rooms, which seem to have come a long way in the last five years or so with recent improvements.

Bottom line: While this season may not look too great for Tech (at least on paper), I think the future is still bright for the Husky program. With Jamie Russell having the full support of the administration and the majority of the community, there is a sense of stability in place where the revolving door of coaching staff has finally come to a stop, excellent plans are in place, and the recruiting networks are well-established. I look foward to watching further progress over the next three years or so.

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