New coach sees 'positives' to build on with Lincolns

  • Sports   Wednesday, November 24, 2021   Pat Payton

By Pat Payton
Taking four out of a possible six points this past weekend, new head coach Jeff Bradley believes St. Marys Lincolns are heading in a positive direction.
Lincs (10-9) won twice on the road, including a 5-2 victory Sunday in St. Thomas, and have moved into a fifth-place tie with LaSalle Vipers (9-6-1-1) in the Western Conference standings. Bradley sees lots of things to build on going forward.
"We've had four games since I've been here, and we've practiced less than we've played," the coach said following a 5-1 home-ice loss to Chatham Maroons last Friday night. "We're still adjusting. It seems we take a couple of steps forward and then step back, but there's still some good things happening."
Bradley says "a ton of information" has been thrown at the players in the past couple of weeks, and it's all being processed. Priority No. 1 right now is turnovers and reducing opponents' scoring chances. The Lincs must get better at managing the puck.
"These players are smart, and they're learning how to defend," the coach says. "We need to learn how to move the puck properly and put it in good spots for the guys to get to. It just seems that we're turning the puck over a ton right now.
"But that's something that will improve with reps and confidence and practice. We have a good group of guys. They do everything for the team, but we have to start playing as a team with the puck. Without the puck, we play great. But with the puck, we have to protect the puck a little bit more. We're giving up far too many scoring opportunities."
One of the concepts Bradley wants to instill in the players is to be defensively responsible in the offensive zone.
"I know we have a good team here in St. Marys, and there's a lot of positives to build on. We just have to work on some things, and add a little bit of structure, and it will pay off later on down the road.
"It's a hungry group and they want to learn. The players are proud to play for this team, and they want to do everything they can to make this team successful."
The coach says he "leans heavily" on veteran forwards such as Joe Mazur, Kobe Ferreira and Cole Schnittker when it comes to killing penalties and he "appreciates their hard work." Lincolns have one of the best penalty-killing percentages (86) in the conference.
--Lincs have struggled with consistency at home, posting a 3-6 won-loss record to date.
"It's unfortunate that we're not winning at home," captain Max Mulder said following last Friday's loss to Chatham. "We just have to bear down and figure out what we need to do, and come prepared to play.
"I think it all starts in our defensive zone. It seems we're having trouble getting out of our end. I think when we get that figured out, we'll be good to go."
--One of the hottest teams in the Western loop is the Chatham Maroons (11-5-1-2), who have gained points in their last six games -- including four wins -- and have moved into a tie for third place.
"It's just been about finding that consistency," Maroons' coach/GM Tyler Roeszler said last Friday night in St. Marys. "There's a lot of new faces on a lot of rosters in this league, and you're going to find inconsistency.
"But we like our group. We have a good mix of veteran players and young hungry players who have come in and are pushing for spots. Our problem has been, we play well against the top half of our league, and then we take the foot off the gas a little bit against the other teams."
Roeszler says Chatham recruits players who can skate, and his line-up has good speed.
"We want the puck and we want to possess the puck. We recruit players who play our system, and it's the same way that Chatham teams have played in the past. From our defencemen right through to our forwards, we want guys who can skate, make plays and are highly competitive.
"We want all five guys on the ice involved, playing a swarming style. If you have guys who can skate, you can play an aggressive, up-tempo style."
--London coach Colin Martin was recently asked the reasons for the Nationals' strong start this season.
"I think the guys have just come together and are playing hockey the right way," the former Lincoln (2007-09) said during a recent stop in St. Marys. "We have a lot of good kids in our room and they've bought into our systems. We've got guys who want to get better every day, and I feel our team collectively has been doing that.
"I'm a coach who likes to coach by committee. We have some good assistant coaches and really good players. When we work as hard as we do, good things are going to happen."
After weekend action, Nats (13-3-1-1) remain in first place with 28 points.
--St. Marys native Kaleb Pearson suffered a broken wrist in an Atlantic university hockey game last Friday night against Saint Mary's, and is expected to be sidelined for six to eight weeks.
Pearson, 21, is a freshman with UPEI, and had 14 points (5-9) in his first 14 league games with the Panthers.
--This Saturday, Nov. 27, the Lincolns' players will be involved in the Santa Claus parade in St. Marys.