Dowd, Gravel Dish On Their First NHL Experience

Dowd AHL Ontario Reign by Lavallee

It’s almost inevitable at this point that Los Angeles Kings prospects Kevin Gravel and Nic Dowd will be tied to one another throughout their careers. Both entered St. Cloud State University at the same time, where they lived together throughout their collegiate playing days, both served as the Huskies co-captains their senior season, the duo turned pro at the same time, and they even got to experience some of their first NHL action together.

Now, the two are once again back together, fighting to defend the Calder Cup they won together last year, as the Ontario Reign take on the San Jose Barracuda in an opening round AHL playoff match-up. The Reign lost Game 2 on Saturday night, meaning the series shifts back to Ontario tied at one game a piece. After the game, we caught up with Dowd and Gravel to discuss their first taste of NHL action, the AHL playoffs, another former Husky, and much more…

Gravel, on rejoining the Reign and playing in Game 2:

“Obviously, it’s an exciting time to jump back into it. You play the whole year for the playoffs. It’s my first game in a little bit, so I was kind of excited to get back into it and get back out here, and play with these guys. They had a big one last night, and I just try and come down here and help out any way that I could. I kind of tried to play my game – keep it simple, just do what I can out there in the defensive end to help these guys out anywhere I’m needed. I thought we played alright. We did some things well, did somethings that we need to improve on. That’s the nature of playoffs. It’s a series. It’s a race to three, not one game, so we’ll be fine.”

Gravel, on personally  having a long layoff between games:

“I think they did a good job up in LA of keeping me ready, just in case anything happens up there. You never know – if someone goes down, or they make a lineup change, you kind of always have to stay in that mindset that you’re going to play and be ready if you’re number’s called. Ended up not (playing), but I did my best to stay ready, worked on things after practice, and did some extra work with the coaches up there. It kind of helps you stay ready, so when I got back down here, I was ready to jump right into it. I haven’t played in a while, so I was kind of itching to play a game. It was nice to get back in there.”

Gravel, on his first NHL experience:

“It was exciting. From my first call-up to my second call-up, I could kind of tell a difference in how comfortable I was. The first one, you kind of are standing on the outside. You don’t really know anyone, you don’t know how anything works. I was fortunate to go back up there again, and you know the guys, you know how the process works, you know how the day-to-day operations work. You feel more comfortable up there the second time. I was able to be up there for the playoff stretch, and unfortunately, the series didn’t go the way we wanted it, but I think you can take a lot of positives from that in my situation. Being around (the Kings) at that time of year, seeing how they approach everything, you can learn a whole lot just from watching the guys that play.”

Gravel, on if having to take an AHL deal and earn an NHL contract added to his first call-up:

“You know what? I don’t know. Obviously, it feels good that my work that I put in is kind of paying off. Obviously, there’s still a lot more to do – I’m not there yet. When I look at it, the way I look at it, I had the chance to play professional hockey out of college. A lot of guys would want that position. We had a great team last year. As the year went on, I got put in a spot to succeed with the coaching staff – they gave me a lot of ice time, especially in the playoffs. Like I said, we had a really good year. Obviously, we won the whole thing. I couldn’t have picked a better first year pro. Regardless of what my contract situation was, you just put that in the back and not worry about it. You just have to go play your game. Like I said, I got a chance to play hockey after college, and a lot of guys would love that opportunity. No complaints from me.”

Gravel, on how if his NHL experience will help him in training camp next year:

“I think that’s the big thing. You kind of know how everything works. You’re familiar with the guys, you’re familiar with the coaching staff, everyone else up there – just how everything works up there. Coming into training camp, it won’t be wide-eyed. It’ll be guys that I’ve played with before, guys that I know now. I’ll just go out there as it’s just another practice. Obviously, it’s not just another practice, but it’s kind of that feeling where in your first training camp, you’re feeling it out, but now, you have that confidence level that you’ve been there before. You’ve just got to trust yourself and go out there and play.”

Gravel AHL Reign by Josh Lavallee

Dowd, on Game 2:

“I thought we played pretty well, to be honest. I’m trying to go through my head on the goals they scored. One was a bad bounce, a two-on-one, drove the net, found it’s way in. The other one was a deflection. We held them to 15 shots, and we had over 30. Too little too late. We needed to score a goal earlier than what when we did to be able to pull our goalie and give ourselves a chance with two minutes left. I thought we played well. I thought our specialty teams let us down. Our penalty kill was good. We only had to kill off a couple, but our powerplay – we got to kick one in. It makes a big difference in the game, especially the playoffs.”

Dowd, on how he thinks the experience of winning the Calder Cup last year will help during this year’s playoffs:

“It was big for my development. Anybody you ask that played in that playoff last year will tell you that it allowed them to take a step in their career. And also, just knowing what to expect. Yeah, we drop one on the road, but that’s why we played for home ice all year. You split here, but then we get to go back and we have three games to get the job done. I think you’ve just got to take it game by game, and you’ve got to have a short memory – not too high, not too low. I think we have a lot of returning guys on this team, and the mood will stay even-keeled, regardless of what happens.”

Dowd, on his first call-up to the NHL:

“It was incredible. I obviously really enjoyed my time up there. Every day was a learning experience. I was just happy to be there and do whatever I can to help the team. It was great. It helped having Gravel up there a bit too, but before he got up there, all the guys up there, including the staff, were great and really helpful. [Reporter: Was having Gravel up during your first call-up even more proof you were meant to do everything together in life?] That’s right. Exactly.”

Dowd, on how his NHL experience will help in trying to make the Kings next season:

“Mentally, I think it’s good. You know what to expect, what the coaches expect from you, the staff, and what they’re looking for. It gives you every advantage to make the team. A lot off your shoulders, too. Everyone’s getting their first call-up out of the way, and you know that you can do it, you know that you can play in that league. I think that was big for the guys that have been up this year that haven’t been up yet, myself included. I still think I have a lot to learn. I’m sure Gravel will say the same thing, (as will) Mersch. It was good. It’s a step in the right direction.”

Dowd, on if playing in the NHL gives him confidence when returning to the AHL:

“Yeah. I think it gives you the confidence to go out there and make plays, trust yourself, trust your teammates. I think it’s allowed me to have a little more confidence with the puck, holding onto it, making plays. When I went up there, I just tried to do the same thing. Coming back here, this is still a great league. Our team’s full of great players, so the difference is small. The transition is smooth, from up-and-down, and that’s the whole point of the organization.”

Dowd, on if the team’s stylistic change to playing more defensively this year compared to last year has affected him:

“No. The role I played last year was similar to the role I played this year. I’m not going to go out there and have a 30-goal season. It’s just not how I play. I do think we have the fire power to score big goals. I think we’re going to count on a lot of guys, young and old, to make those plays. This is a challenging team to play, because they’re very defensive, and they lock a lot of plays down. They have a good D core and they’re good through the middle. I think that playing this team has its challenges, just as playing every other team does, but it’s going to be difficult to put five up on San Jose. We’ve had close games all year.”

Dowd, on if it felt weird seeing Jonny Brodzinski struggle to score early in the year, after watching him score a lot in college:

“No, I don’t think it was weird. Every kid’s going to find his way moving into the league. Obviously, you have to gain Stothers trust to be able to play in those situations. Jumping right in, I was the same last year, Mersch was the same last year, same with Gravel. And Brodzinski has done that over the year. He’s forced himself into a situation where he can now score big goals to help our team, which he did tonight. But, I’m not surprised. I would have been surprised if he had jumped right in and had the year he’s having right now. I think that he’s played really well to get to this point, and he deserves the playing time.”

RELATED CONTENT:

AHL: Reign Comeback Falls Short, San Jose Ties Series At One

AHL: Brodzinski Nets Game-Winner, Reign Take Game 1

Stothers Dissects First Round Match-up Ahead Of Game 1

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