It’s been noted here that top-4 blue liner Kurtis MacDermid will be out a couple weeks with an upper-body injury sustained last Friday. And now Ontario has added to the fold fresh-out-of-Michigan Tech defenseman Matt Roy, who participated in his first practice with the team on Wednesday and looks to make his AHL debut in this weekend’s trip to Bakersfield.
With MacDermid sidelined, the focus for head coach Mike Stothers is on the collective effort of a now even less-experienced blue line, rather than on any particular players to step up in his absence.
“I don’t think I can even go down that path with those guys. It’s through, collectively as a group it’s too young. I think they’ve got to approach it as it’s a group of six. Whatever six it plays out to be,” Stothers said earlier this week. “If you single anyone out and say ‘we need you to do this,’ it sounds like you’re putting pressure on them when in fact you’re trying to relieve pressure by saying it’s a collective group of six.
“You don’t have to do anything special just do your job, move the puck. And when we do it’s like night and day for me, the result, the end result of the game and how much time we spend in our end. Again, it’s a funny game because they figure they gotta do more to be doing better or well when in fact do less and you will be better and you will be doing well.”
Inevitably and as shown last Saturday, more responsibility will fall on Alex Lintuniemi and Zac Leslie, defensemen with more tenure than Alexx Privitera, Damir Sharipzianov and Roy. Not only was MacDermid getting chunks of 5-on-5 ice time, but he was a key penalty killer as well.
“I think I just gotta do what I do,” said Lintuniemi, who was paired with Leslie last Saturday. “Play the way I always played. It’s a great opportunity to play even more now. Hopefully I’ll get to play a little more than I usually do. It’ll be fun.”
Should Roy get in this weekend’s lineup, he will likely be paired with either of the team’s veterans in Vincent LoVerde or Cameron Schilling.
The message from Stothers to all of his young defensemen is not to overthink the game.
“We’re hockey people. Just stick to the ABCs and adding and subtracting. Don’t get into the long division and all that. Keep it simple,” he said.
Lintuniemi, on feeling back in the swing of things after returning from a groin injury:
I feel like I’m back in it again. What do you call it? Back in the groove kind of thing. Everything’s feeling good so it’s nice to be back playing again and hopefully I’ll stay healthy here.
Lintuniemi, on group’s mentality game by game:
We try go game by game. The coaches have been on us about getting shots through to the net so the forwards can score more goals. I feel like we’ve been better at that [last] weekend too. We got a couple shots from the point that got tipped and went in so that’s good.
Lintuniemi, on the focus going into Bakersfield:
We have a good thing going on now, so let’s just keep it rolling.
Reign captain Vincent LoVerde was selected as the Reign’s winner of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year award for his outstanding contributions in the community this season. As a result, LoVerde is now one of 30 finalists for the AHL’s Yanick Dupre Memorial Award, named after the former Hershey Bears forward who died in 1997 following a 16-month battle with leukemia.
For more on LoVerde’s contributions this season, click here.
The winner of award will be named by the league at TBD later date.