Photo Credit-Kelsey Lee: Violet Turtle Photography
This 2021-2022 Northeast Generals team is already off to a better start than last year. They came into their game against a physical New Mexico Ice Wolves team at the NAHL Showcase off a 3-2 hard-fought win over the Bismarck Bobcats.
Today, the Generals added one negative first to this season, their first loss. With that said there was some good today that is worth showcasing. First, because this is the NAHL Showcase, Head Coach Bryan Erikson and his staff made the decision to make sure to play all of their roster. That is something done, as Erikson said because, “Its the NAHL Showcase. Each player has earned the right to be on this team for now. I think Eric, Matt and I owe it to each player to get them game time in front of all these scouts. We also have some hard decisions to make in the coming weeks and we want to have some game data to make the best decisions possible. More kids will be out and in tomorrow as well. We are still trying to figure out our best lineup. We won’t figure it out this week but the picture will become clearer.”
In person, we alone saw more than 60 colleges represented and at least seven NHL teams with representation there. Also asking players to play four games in four days without mixing things up and changing workloads in a sport like hockey is always at best a risky proposition.
With that said, those making their debuts, either season or NAHL, had some good things today. Forward Ryan Corcoran had his first game coming off an injury to his shoulder and had some good contributions, including his effort on the goal by forward Landon Kolnik.
On the play, punctuated by a sound snipe from Kolnik that went five hole, Erikson noted that ” I was just glad to get him back on the ice. He has been battling an injury and I think he played more timid that I would have liked but I understand it. Fear of aggravating an injury is always a big concern. But when he had the puck he showed some good patience. He made a nice play on the PP goal down to Boczar who made a great pass to Kolnik who buried it.”
It is worth noting that Kolnik came from Quebec to play in the states because he wants the visibility that college hockey offers. It is also worth noting that he was initially cut from camp, went home, and was called back by Erikson a day later with the offer to play for the Generals. On the release, the shot went through the five hole fast and Kolnik’s line with Joe Schubert has consistently played well and physical and it was fitting that he earned the Generals’ first power play goal. If the Generals did not change their mind there was a chance Kolnik might not have played hockey at all this season, and at best would have played on the AAA level in Quebec, given when he was initially cut and how quick roster spots were filling up.
Hear Erikson’s explanation on what lead to Kolnik coming back after being cut “We self assess a lot. We had a divided scout room about Landon. And I was on the no side. But that night I went back and rewatched some games of camp and I realized that we made a mistake. So instead of ignoring the mistake we decided to try to fix it. I called Landon expecting he would say no. But I was glad he accepted my apology and came back. The boys love Koko! He plays hard and the right way. He has become a player we really rely on.”
On tape Erikson said the following, “ well, he’s an undersized import forward without great speed. But on the tape I realized he was just a very smart hockey player. We loved his grit but sometimes at camp you don’t see the IQ. And he just made so many small plays, area passes, sneaky shot. He just is a very good player.”
In net, Cam Kuntar made 24 saves on 26 shots in his NAHL debut. While noting the increased speed of the game, he and Erikson thought Cam played well in his debut. Kuntar praised Goaltending Coach Steve Mastalerz for listening to him and working with his style. That is, he works with Kuntar and Carson Limesand to highlight what they do well and works to improve their style over imposing his own. Both netminders lean on each other for encouragement, and are already becoming a true tandem. The two goals conceded by Kuntar came on backdoor odd man rushes that are tough for any goalie at any level to stop. Every player we interviewed thought they could have done more to help on those two plays.
As to the Generals, Erikson was succinct on the day, noting areas for improvement.
” We didn’t create energy. And that led to a very flat first period and some lazy turnovers in the 3rd. But we knew we weren’t going to go undefeated. We knew we were going to lose. It’s now really about how they kids respond. That was a good team we lost to today. Well coached, good structure. They were the better team and the deserved to win. Winning some games is obviously preferred but I don’t like the way we have played, we haven’t put together a full 60 minutes yet. That is tough. But I like our guys, I like our record and I think we can keep building on the positives while eliminating the negatives.”
As to the Generals’ opponent tomorrow afternoon, the Minnesota Wilderness, Erikson said
” They went far last season. They are very very heavy. Play a disciplined game and will not give us anything easy. They are very well coached. Really looking forward to another challenge tomorrow. I think they present different problems than New Mexico who is also a great team. Excited to see how we bounce back. But like every game we focus and worry more about what we are doing than the other team.”
The next chance for the Generals to add some more positive firsts, like their first 4-1 start comes tomorrow afternoon at 4:45 PM Central time against the Wilderness in day three of the NAHL Showcase.
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