B- Sens chas­ing play­off spot: interview with the coach

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - SPORTS - MATT TIDCOMBE WWW. BELLEVILLESENS. COM

As the Belleville Sen­a­tors hit the mid­way point of their 2018- 19 sea­son, they sit just out­side the play­offs with a 17- 20- 2- 0 record.

With 38 games left in the sea­son, the Sens are prim­ing them­selves for a run to make the play­offs for the first time in fran­chise his­tory.

Sen­a­tors head coach Troy Mann chats about the cur­rent state of the team and what needs to be done to push his squad into the top four in the North Di­vi­sion.

At the half­way mark of the sea­son, how do you as­sess the year so far?

There’s been a lot of frus­tra­tion and there’s been a lot of ad­ver­sity which some peo­ple say is not a bad thing but I cer­tainly felt that we would be closer to a play­off spot when Oc­to­ber rolled around in terms of our ros­ter. But that’s the beauty of the Amer­i­can Hockey League as you never know what’s go­ing to hap­pen on a week- to- week ba­sis. This is my ninth year in the AHL and quite frankly I’ve never seen any­thing quite like it in terms of the num­ber of trans­ac­tions over the first 14 weeks so there’s been a lot of ros­ter fluc­tu­a­tion. Of course, Ot­tawa have had their share of in­juries as well and when you put that all to­gether, it makes it tough to win hockey games and get some con­sis­tency go­ing.

What are the pos­i­tives you’ve seen with the team and what are some of the things that you need to see im­prove­ment in for the sec­ond half?

I think our young play­ers are com­ing along. We’ve seen a num­ber of guys, Chris­tian Wolanin, Drake Bather­son, Nick Paul, Jack Rode­wald and oth­ers, re­ceive a num­ber of call- ups and that’s a pos­i­tive and I think a num­ber of our young play­ers have got­ten bet­ter and that’s the key. We want to get them bet­ter on a week- to- week ba­sis. From a team per­spec­tive we need to do a lit­tle bit of a bet­ter job of pro­tect­ing our goalies. We have to play the right way with a lit­tle more con­sis­tency and I think the wins will come re­gard­less of our ros­ter fluc­tu­a­tion and who’s in and who’s out.

What’s go­ing to be the key to mak­ing a run to a play­off spot in the sec­ond half of the year?

Some steadi­ness in the ros­ter. Hope­fully the goal­tend­ing sit­u­a­tion will rec­tify it­self over the next cou­ple of weeks with Craig An­der­son get­ting back from his in­jury which will al­low the peck­ing or­der to come back to fruition. I think it’s a lot of pres­sure on a young goal­tender in his first year of pro and be­ing from Europe to hold the fort down on a night- tonight ba­sis and I don’t think he’s the only one to have some in­con­sis­ten­cies from game- to- game and we knew that was go­ing to hap­pen. But there’s noth­ing we can do about it and he’s go­ing to grow game- togame and on a week- to- week ba­sis and when Mar­cus Hog­berg comes back he can help that process and we can get on a lit­tle bit of a run. As we know there’s so much divisional play in this league that one four or five game winning streak can get you right back to where you need to be and we have seen that al­ready with our three- game winning streak. We just have to hold the fort here un­til we get some key guys back like Erik Burg­do­er­fer, Pa­trick Sieloff and Hog­berg and if that can sta­bi­lize a bit I do be­lieve we can get back into that fourth spot area.

How much have in­juries and call- ups im­pacted the year?

It takes away from your team chem­istry to some de­gree be­cause your lines never stay the same and your de­fen­sive pair­ings never stay the same ei­ther. I think that you can sur­vive with­out three, four or five guys out of your line- up but when you start to get to that eight, nine, 10, 11 area that we’ve seen quite a bit this year, and that’s not to make ex­cuses, but I’ve just been around the league long enough to know you can sur­vive with some in­juries. But when it starts to get up to that num­ber you never have the same ros­ter on a nightly ba­sis so that cer­tainly hurts the flow. We have to deal with that and hope­fully these young guys like Bather­son and Lo­gan Brown con­tinue to grow and have a great sec­ond half while our vet­er­ans step up as well and that leads to more wins.

Eleven play­ers have played in Ot­tawa and Belleville this sea­son. What does that say about the level of talent in the or­ga­ni­za­tion?

I think it’s re­ally good news for the or­ga­ni­za­tion mov­ing for­ward. There was a plan put in place in July in terms of try­ing to let the young guys grow in a bit. I think we’ve got away from them play­ing a bit, not be­cause any­body wanted to, whether it was man­age­ment or coach­ing staff, it’s just the in­juries have dic­tated what’s hap­pened in Ot­tawa and Belleville. At the same time, guys have got­ten plenty of op­por­tu­nity, Ste­fan El­liott got traded here and the next thing you know he’s in the NHL, Dar­ren Archibald has al­ready gone up and those things hap­pen for the veteran play­ers as well. Guys are look­ing at those trans­ac­tions as they all ul­ti­mately want to be in the NHL whether it’s just for a few games or full time.

WWW. BELLEVILLESENS. COM

Belleville Sen­a­tors head coach Troy Mann is pos­i­tive about the team’s di­rec­tion this sea­son.

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