Coach’s Corner

Wayne Strachan

Well for me, Christmas came early. The boys played their best hockey of the year last week—and it couldn’t have come at a better time against the league’s top two teams.
It started last Tuesday night (Dec. 15) against Dryden when we jumped out to a two-goal lead and led most of the game.
Unfortunately, they tied it up on a defensive flaw in the third. Then we couldn’t muster anything in the shootout.
We deserved to win the game! It definitely was our best game of the season and we put forth a strong effort for 60 minutes—something we haven’t done in a long time.
After one day off and then another good practice with lots of intensity, the North Stars were in town. Before the game, we talked about matching their intensity and playing in their face, not giving them any room to get their speed going or let their skill beat us.
We needed to give another 60-minute effort—and for the most part, this happened. We came out strong and jumped up two goals again.
Through much hard work, the killing of numerous penalties, and a heart-pounding final two-and-a-half minutes when it seemed the buzzer would never sound, we pulled out a hard-fought victory. An accomplishment we needed to pull off as a team and have a good feeling going into our Christmas break.
It also was a great feeling to hear our faithful crowd getting into the game and heckling their goalie.
From the staff’s point of view, we are very proud of the team and what they have accomplished in the last two-three weeks. They have grown both on and off the ice. They worked together to become closer and gel off the ice.
They are getting the message that hard work will pay off on the ice and attention to detail in practice only will help us get better during games.
It has been an up-and-down first half of the season, but this last week has shown we are not giving up. We are determined to work hard, and we need to build off the momentum of getting three of the possible four points against the league’s top two teams.
Colton Kennedy has been great this first half with his play, leading our team in points and many nights being the hardest worker on the ice. His line of Stevenson and Erhart have been strong the last three-four games.
The line of Katapaytuk, Jourdain, and Carne—three big, strong, and talented players—is nice to watch and often sets the pace for us with their physical play. They can dominate down low in the opposition’s end.
The Boaz line of Gutierrez and Hennessey is relied on often to shut down the opposition’s top line and they have done a great job controlling the play as of late. Meanwhile, the energy line of Edwards, Leclair, and Lockman has been fun to watch as they get under the skin of our opponents with their speed and work ethic.
We are waiting the return of Jordan Sinclair off the injured reserve list, and looking forward to getting his skills and smarts back into the lineup.
Our forward group is coming together nicely; they are working hard in practice and improving on their game efforts. I am excited for the second half as our development is coming and our young players are learning and growing.
We now will have a 10-day break. We have gained some much-needed confidence and will work hard over this break to carry our good fortune into the second half of the season when we meet the North Stars again in their rink Jan. 2.
Before that, though, we will meet the Fort Frances Thunderhawks in an exhibition game on Wednesday, Dec. 30 at 7:30 p.m. This will be a good test for us as we will have to compete hard and play intense to keep up with the wily veterans.
It also will be good for us to get some action before meeting the top team in the league again. They will want revenge—and it will not be easy to beat them at home or back to back.
• • •
Fans, we will be in Emo on Wednesday, Dec. 31 at noon to practice. And immediately following, we will have a skate with the Lakers players at 1 p.m.
Please come out and watch the team skate, and then join us for a little fun on the rink.
Again, I would like to send, on behalf of the players, coaches, board of directors, fan club, and organization, a huge thank you to all of our sponsors, supporters, and loyal fans who have made this happen.
Without you, it would be very hard to operate. We appreciate all your support and everything you do to help our cause.
From our organization to all the Rainy River District: have a safe and merry Christmas!