My high school football coach always barked out, “If you’re not moving your feet, you’re not helping your team!”
Ontario Reign Head Coach Mike Stothers echoed those same ideals last Saturday following a 2-1 season-opening loss to the San Antonio Rampage in central Texas.
“Caught off guard by what?” he replied in “Bus Texts.” “The fact that we didn’t’ move our feet. The fact that we refused to put pucks behind their defense? The fact that we wanted to play every direction but North?”
Over the last three days, the Reign took to the ice at LA Kings Icetown in Riverside with a focus on fine-tuning the basics. Moving your feet. Keeping your head up. Making smart plays. Simple enough eh?
“In the game of hockey, it’s pretty hard to do anything if you are stationary,” Stothers mentioned after practice Wednesday. “It’s hard to make or receive a pass and if you are standing still, you’re not generating anything. We wanted to get back to playing with pace. It’s not like we are trying to hurry the play. We need to get back hard for pucks going into our end, handle them clean and get back going the other direction.”
Over the hour practice, all 24 skaters ran through set drills with pucks dumped below the goal line, breakouts, connecting passes and…well…moving.
“It’s all about awareness,” Stothers said. “If we are trying to break out of our end, our forwards need to not only become available, but they should know where the opposition is. We want to be sure we are picking up and looking over our shoulder. It’s one of the many little details we are focusing on here early in the season.”
This focus and having only one game of a 68-game marathon in the books, the team’s early open schedule allows for tweaks and trials for new line combinations and offensive solutions…so we thought.
“You’re going to be shocked to know that I haven’t tweaked one line yet. It’s too early to start throwing jerseys in the washing machine and pulling them out and putting a line combo together. I think when you look at the balance of what we have, we feel we have some size, skill and speed that makes up a good line. As a coaching staff, it’s a matter of getting a good feel of your personnel. We want to make sure we are evaluating what we think may be a good fit.”
The Reign travel to Des Moines, Iowa to take on the Iowa Wild on Friday at Wells Fargo Arena and close a season-opening three-game road trip with their first-ever showdown against the Chicago Wolves on Saturday at Allstate Arena in Rosemont.