The Kings dropped a rookie game to the Arizona Coyotes Wednesday afternoon at Toyota Sports Center, falling 5-1 in a game that saw the Coyotes score once in the three-on-three overtime demonstration. After the game, Ontario Reign Head Coach Mike Stothers and goaltending prospect Alec Dillon spoke with reporters about the two days of implementing the past week’s instruction in game settings.
Mike Stothers, on what he liked and disliked from the rookie games:
Well, I didn’t like the end results of both games. But you know what, we got to work on our penalty killing quite a bit. Some of those penalties are good ones, some of them are not so good. I think we spent far too much time in the box. It played a toll on tonight’s game. I thought we did a good job but if you keep giving teams opportunities, they’re going to find the back of the net sooner or later. It is what it is. It’s two rookie games. These guys, they’re eager, they’re hungry, they’re excited to play. Sometimes it’s a little disjointed out there on the ice. But I think we saw, at times, some positive things about what we’re trying to implement and it’s going to take some time for everybody to come together.
Stothers, on whether he sees progression in some of the players he has seen before:
I mean, Kempe was around throughout the playoffs and he was instrumental for us. He’s done very well. Auger, Horvat, Raine, Ebert, those guys that are around – there’s a difference in just how they prepare themselves and even on the ice. You can see their structure doesn’t vary all that much even under pressure. But it’s tough for them. It’s been a long time since anyone played some organized hockey. I mean most of these guys skate during the summer, but it’s the summer hockey and now it’s time. There isn’t a lot of room out there. You’ve got five guys on each side, that’s 10 bodies. It’s tough. You need everybody to be cohesive and I think at times we looked real good.
Stothers, on whether he liked the performance by the two young goaltenders:
I think goaltending was certainly not an issue. I thought they fared very well. Again, you go back to the number of times we were shorthanded – that puts a lot of pressure on a goalie. You finish off with three-on-three for five minutes. Listen, guys, I mean it’s a couple days to evaluate during game conditions and it’s four days to evaluated during camp for these guys. Some of them are being returned to juniors. You can’t read too much into anything.
Stothers, on how he approached the three-on-three overtime:
Well, I can tell you that I like it a whole lot more than deciding a game on a shootout. I mean that, to me, was ridiculous to have the game decided on a shootout. So it’s exciting for everybody. The players love it. There’s lots of room out there. There’s lots of ways you can go at it. You can have three forwards, you can have two forwards and a defenseman and whatever you have at your disposal. But I think it’s going to make for some really exciting finishes.
Stothers, on whether he sees team working on three-on-three play in practice:
It could be a hidden bag skate for the guys. They’ll love it. So we’ll say we’re working three-on-three. Yeah, it’s like every part of your game. You want to make sure that you’re touching on all those areas and I think you’ll see that teams will study other teams as to what they’re doing. And as I said, depending upon your lineup, you might see a lot of three forwards out there. So it depends on your personnel. But maybe if you’ve got a goalie that handles the puck well, he becomes a real factor for you. But I tell you what, I love it. You get a chance at one end and you don’t score, there’s going to be a chance at the other end in a hurry. So it’s great.
Alec Dillon, on his performance and the performance of the team in the rookie game:
I mean, it’s a tough two games. Me only playing the second game, I thought you could definitely tell the guys that had legs under them that sat out the first game. So I felt good. I felt like I kept it close the first half and when Jack took over, he played amazing and we kept it close the whole game. But scoring wasn’t there tonight, and for whatever reason their goalie played good and we could’ve had a few more goals, but that’s the way the bounces go.
Dillon, on whether he was surprised at the pace of the game:
Yeah, I think you have older guys out there like yesterday – Domi and Duclair – they bring a pace to the game that some other guys don’t. Today, watching the guys like Samuelsson just bringing that pace and that intensity that we have to match and I think we did tonight for the most part.
Dillon, on whether he prefers the three-on-three overtime to the shootout:
Yeah, I mean when you win. It’s nice when you get the win, but the shootout is a tricky thing because it’s just a goaltender and the shooter. Three-on-three, it’s more of a team win. The shootouts are nice when you win, but you kind of feel more like you let the guys down when you lose. Three-on-three is going to be a new cool thing for the league and obviously for the WHL, too. I think it’s going to be exciting.
Dillon, on whether three-on-three gives more of a natural resolution to games:
Yeah, I think it’s more natural because you get momentum in overtime and you might only get it for the last 30 seconds of the game. So it makes you play to the end of the period, the third period and then that overtime your pace will keep up and you can keep that momentum. The shootout kind of just stops and it’s all up to skill and it’s all up to the goalie.
Dillon, on what he’ll take away from his rookie camp experience:
Just that pro mentality, just coming to the rink and putting in the work ethic that maybe you don’t do so much in the WHL. Just that pro mentality, like I said, and that pro work ethic. I think that’s what I learned most here.
Dillon, on goaltenders contributing to offensive breakouts in three-on-three play:
I think it’s a huge part of the game. Playing the puck is very important for a goalie and a good skill for a goalie to have. If you can catch a guy on their team with a quick pass, or a quick pass over the blue line, I think it’s going to be a big part of the game.