Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography
Coming into the NAHL Showcase finale, the Generals again went with a different lineup. Head Coach Bryan Erikson used his fourth different setup in four days, and every player who could have played this weekend in front of the hundreds of scouts, coaches, and dealt with exhasution, playing their fourth game in four days, and competed hard throughout. Today, they earned a hard faught loss in their Showcase Finale. Carson Limesand had a spotless game in relief of Cam Kuntar and helped keep the Generals in it.
Of the good to takeaway, Erikson said “I liked that we battled back. It was our 4th game in 4 days. Our 4th lineup in 4 games. Different line combos. I thought our PP was and is getting better. We don’t take a lot of positives out of a loss but I give the boys credit for their compete.”
The Generals converted one of their three power plays, but as the Showcase has gone on, it has started to come together and gel as a unit. The team has earned more zone time on their power plays as the week wore on, and different players each day have helped. One defender for his ability to lead the power play that stood out today was Jackson McCarthy. His smooth skating, combined with good vision make him an ideal defender to be lead on the power play.
As Erikson said of Limesand’s ability to bounce back and his relief effort “relief is real tough. I thought he did a great job. Left off some big rebounds which is what you expect when you don’t have the feel for the puck. But he did the important thing and stop the bleeding and put up a 0 for the rest of the game. Also great to see him bounce back from a rough game on Friday.”
Ryan Gordon put the Generals within one near the end of the second period, but it was as close as the Generals would get, as the third was scoreless after a five goal second period. For the Generals, Paul Minnehan opened the scoring with a clean right corner shot early in the first period. Amarillo’s budding star, Kristaps Skrastins, put home his eigth goal in four games to round out Amarillo’s scoring and provide the game winner.
On the game, the Generals seemed control play more when they were behind. Erikson said of that and what the staff will look to do this week, “I think we found out where we need to possibly bring in some reinforcements. Adjustments we need to make in our coaching and learned how huge of a loss David Andreychuk is to our team. It’s easy to play from behind you have nothing to lose.”
With all of this said, Erikson loves the event and what takeaways it brought his group.
He said of the Showcase “I love everything about the event. The length, the 4 games in 4 days. The exhaustion, the scouts. Everything. It shows a tremendous amount about the character and make up of the team.”
Of what comes next, Erikson notes that him and his staff have to deal with the unfortunate reality of ” Making our cuts. Really bummed that we have to see a few kids go. All of the boys are awesome but we have to make some tough decisions. Then we have to turn right around and focus on getting ready for a always well coached Johnstown team.”
NAHL rosters soon shrink from 28 to 23. Between making some tough choices on who to cut, and USHL players the team has rights to at the NAHL level that could be coming back like Ryan Gordon did this week, along with NAHL teams paring down their roster leaves a lot of potential turnover the Generals could see.
With that said, one thing Erikson and his staff pride themselves on for those who are cut is finding the best fit possible for those players. He traded some of his veterans from last year’s group that did not play much like John Musella to Corpus Christi where they are getting key minutes. The Generals work to find the best fit for players ideally at the NAHL level. In exit meetings, Erikson gives these players templates of what they can improve on when they get to their new home.
A week of change awaits the Generals before their home opening series against Johnstown. One constant early in the season for this group is their ability to fight back. They are .500 after the showcase, which is tied for their best start since the 2018-2019 season.
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