AHL: Reign Camp Update with Stothers and Mersch

Ontario Reign AHL logoWith only four days to go before the Ontario Reign open up their inaugural AHL regular season, the Reign are practicing hard to be ready for their game against the Bakersfield Condors on Saturday night.  Ontario is still working on their final camp roster and had a couple of additions and a subtraction.  The Reign gained the Calder Cup leading scorer Michael Mersch on Monday and with added veterans Vincent LoVerde and Jaime McBain on Tuesday.  Unfortunately for the Reign last year’s starting goaltender J.F. Berube was lost on waivers to the New York Islanders early Tuesday.  Mayor’s Manor correspondent Cody Warner met with Head Coach Mike Stothers and Michael Mersch after today’s practice to talk about the upcoming season.


Head Coach Mike Stothers on expectations for this years team:

“You never want to make bold predictions before the season has even started. Our roster is still kind of rounding into form. We got a couple players down from the Kings and I’m not sure our roster is even set yet. I would never want to make any kind of bold statements or predictions. I will say one thing; we’ll be entertaining to watch. We will be hard working, we’re going to be in shape and we’re going to try and build off of our previous success. We strive to be the best and we always give it a full effort and usually good things work out.”

Stothers on the challenges of a changing roster:

“It’s always going to take some time. Even today with the movement we had this morning and last night, when a guy is maybe traded or picked up there’s that shock. For the other guys they’re guys coming down and when they come down there are guys that are here looking around like ‘where do i fit in? This guy is down, what’s my role?’ It’s going to be up to us as coaches to make sure that we clearly identify each individual’s role and how they can best help the team and themselves. We’ll spend time together, off the ice and obviously on the ice working on our systems and getting everybody on the same page. For the most part, the core that we have from last year’s team, on which we had some great leadership, we can build off of that. I know one thing; we have good people in our room. They’re good team guys, they’re not individuals and we’re encouraged by that.”

Stothers on some of the challenges of the upcoming seasons:

“Just in itself the players that we’ve lost. I’ve looked into, even going into last night’s exhibition game; we don’t have either one of the goalies that were here last year. And since then Berube has been claimed and Bartosak is hurt for a while. On the back end we didn’t have our captain and he is not with us. Bods is gone, Schultz is up and Miller is with Boston. That changes your back end dramatically. Of course, we didn’t have Mersch, Weal, Shore or O’Neill. When you put that down on paper and see what you did have and what you don’t have, that’s part of the American Hockey League. The turnover and the graduation process, we want these guys to get to the NHL whether it’s with the Kings or with another organization, we want them to have that opportunity. It has been very successful thus far and we’re excited for the start of a new season. It’s a new challenge, whatever players we have here, we’re going to try and make them better and make them grow. We know that we’re going to have some growing pains and some situations where we can’t expect to be compared to last year’s team. We’re not going to make that mistake and live in the past. We’re going forward. We’ll start here, and where we want to be at the end of the year is a much improved hockey club from goaltender on out.”

Michael Mersch on his offseason:

“LA was a great experience I’m glad I got that opportunity. I’ve said this before I think, you capitalize some and you’re still a work in progress on other stuff. Coming out here nothing really changes. I keep playing my style of hockey and help the team out. It’s nice seeing some familiar faces from last year, but then again you’ve got some guys leaving like Brian O’Neill and J.F. and of course a few guys are with the Kings. Some new faces as well, so you wish those guys the best of luck. It’s hockey season again and it’s exciting.”

Mersch on his expanded leadership role with many of last year’s players in other places:

“Well I think last year being my rookie year, this year, whether those guys were around (or not), I think I would have liked to have a bigger leadership role. That’s something I talked about with management in LA was to have a leadership role down here. It’s good. It’s more onus on me as an individual and that’s another part of your game that you can round out. You’re always looking to get better as a player and as a person as well, so i think that gives me an opportunity to do that.”

Mersch on some of the main things he learned skating with the Kings:

“The pace is crazy with the NHL guys, it’s the best pace around. Getting to practice with those guys on a continual basis and playing with some really good players makes you a better player. My footwork is probably my biggest weak point so having that pace and working on foot speed with those guys was great.”

Mersch on his personal expectations:

“Well I like scoring so I’m going to try and do as much of that as I can. This team emphasizes breakout plays and making strong plays, little stuff like that. Hopefully the success will build off that offensively. There are still a lot of great players on this team, utilize each others strengths and help us win games.”

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  1. Pretty worried about the goaltending situation… But pumped to get er goin again!