Coach discusses challenges after losing several players
We’ve not had a lot of space lately for coverage of the Slave Lake Icedogs. This is unfortunate, because head coach Gregg Kennedy has had lots to say!
The team is facing big challenges lately, thanks mainly to losing quite a few players it had counted on to complete the spring season. After a couple of blowout losses to the powerful High Prairie Red Wings, Kennedy attempted to put things in perspective in an email to The Leader.
“We simply did not have the talent or the depth to compete with them. We have to find other ways; specifically tactically. Need to be smarter, play smarter. A 100 per cent commitment and devotion to a system is required and, at this point, we simply have not had enough practice time and reps to be where we need to be. It will come but requires time, work and patience.”
The Icedogs are so depleted, player-wise for a variety of reasons. Why the same bug did not bite the Red Wings is a good question, but not one we have the answer to. In the case of the Icedogs, team captain “and arguably the best player in the league,” Shaye Sommerfeld decided his summer job (starting May 3) was more important. He had stuck with the team all through the dark and inactive winter, but needed to move on.
Otherwise, “We have had two players who could not get here, four younger guys go home because their school was suffering and two go home for summer jobs,” Kennedy says.
Dealing with the situation, Kennedy said this:
“Reality deals with you swiftly in life and no less swiftly in hockey. The reality of the situation is we have lost a lot of players affecting not only our depth but our overall talent level. We now have different expectations on some of our younger players. Young kids expected to play on a fourth line and even watch a lot of games from the stands are now suddenly in the top nine up front. It will take time to work with them to have them ready to compete.”
“Certain players have to adjust; change the way they play the game and rededicate themselves. We are not a run and gun, high flying, offensively gifted group. We cannot play a puck possession game. Our offence will come off the forecheck; the old cliche ‘get pucks deep,’ smart scheming to create turnovers, move the puck low to high and crash the net. Point shots, down low walkouts, stuffs, jams, tips and rebounds – Dirt Nose Goals.
“That’s where we need to be humble. The sooner the group accepts this, the sooner we can adapt our game. Well, that, and a few good practices!”
When he wrote, that, the team had missed a practice or two due to COVID testing protocols. The tests are happening weekly, for all four teams in the GMHL West Division, in Enoch. One of the team’s games per week from now on will be played there, Kennedy says.