Photo Credit: Patrick Garriepy-Patrick Garriepy Photography
Tonight, the Northeast Generals were the better team against the Danbury Junior Hat Tricks. With the amount of games in hand Maryland and Danbury have, the Generals have to get as many points as they can down the stretch to have a chance to make the NAHL playoffs.
Initially, the Junior Hat Tricks came out with a strong push. Hugo Haas made one of his 44 saves early on a breakaway that would have altered the course of the game a mere 1:17 into the the game. From that point, despite getting outshot, the Generals slowly and methodically took control of the game.
As Head Coach Bryan Erikson said of Haas and his team ” Hugo bailed us out early but the boys turned it on and Gordon came up huge with a goal on a great play from Matt Yeager and Kyle Schroeder. Sign of a team getting better is leading after one after being out played…Hugo is just so good and calm in net. Such a luxury to have him back there and not worry about those types of breakdowns in front of him. He was just great in net but that save in the first set a tone for our guys that they could be aggressive and he would have their backs.”
Tonight, the fourth line was the catalyst for the Generals. They model their game on Erikson’s style of playing a tough, physical brand of hockey that moves the puck forward with a purpose. Ryan Gordon’s two goals to open the scoring ledger for the Generals proved decisive, and the fourth line, for Erikson were the first standouts tonight as he said ” That line was our best line by a lot. Matt Yeager was so good on the forecheck tonight and on the wall in the D zone. He made a ton of good plays. Kyle Schroeder was a beast as usual, going a million miles an hour, finishing hits all over the ice. And Ryan Gordon just keeps getting better. He has earned everything he has gotten. He has simplified his game, which has a ton of skill in it, to become a more 200 foot guy. And he is good in tight. Real happy for him and the rest of that line. A huge reason we have been on a little bit of a roll.”
In addition to the fourth line, Erikson took the time to praise some of his other skaters who still brought a lot to the group, even if they did not put up the gaudy numbers of some of their teammates. As he said, again giving his team all of the credit for their work ” Kyle Schroeder of course. But Matt Sutter made some huge hits, and took some huge hits and just keeps going. I thought some of our 00’s weren’t as good as usual but they got pretty dirty tonight. Tyler Cooper is a good example of a guy that didn’t have his A game but kept his feet moving and created offense. Jonathan Young wasn’t at his best but was still a monster on the forecheck and PK. He did some real good and simple things. When the hands aren’t working or are off you can still affect the game with your legs and your stick. Same goes for Liam McCanney and Hunter Olson who were hard to play against tonight.” All of those players had a hand in limiting quality looks for Danbury. Despite outshooting the Generals, the Junior Hat Tricks had less high quality looks than Erikson’s group did.
Finally, while Erikson noted the value of the team’s work in practice on improving transitions through the neutral zone, and finished with one thing to build on in the series finale against the Jr. Hat Tricks tomorrow night. As he said, the team did a good job with their flow through the neutral zone and drawing defenders out of position. That territorial advantage contributed to Gordon’s Goals, Adam Smith’s two goals, and a lot more of the success of the team tonight. For them to repeat this result tomorrow, or improve on it, Erikson noted that ” We need to be better through the neutral zone and harder on our sticks. We also have to limit the odd man rushes. They do a great job of pushing guys behind our D and we need to have a much better F3 on the forecheck and D that are more aware of when to pinch and when to back off.” Throughout Danbury’s early push, the Generals were giving them too much opportunity to waltz into the zone, and get good looks. For the finale tomorrow night, keep an eye on how the Generals limit their turnovers, and create flowing hockey the other way.
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