The Ontario Reign are not quite the same squad they were a month ago when they beat the Charlotte twice. In the rematch in Ontario, the Reign dropped a close game 4-2. Michael Mersch has been with the big club for quite a while now and with Adrian Kempe tearing it up for Sweden at the WJC and the Reign have had a much tougher time scoring goals as a result. Nic Dowd finally broke what was a scoreless streak on the power play that lasted over the course of more than 30 chances with the man advantage.
Mersch being called up and Kempe’s responsibility to his homeland have created opportunities for other players, including St. Cloud State Hockey alum Johnny Brodzinski. Ranking number 6 in our current prospect rankings, Brodzinksi is known for his creative play and his lethal shot. He has been moved up to the line that Mersch was skating on with his former college teammate Nic Dowd. Brodzinski spoke about his role and more with MM following Saturday night’s loss.
Brodzinski on his expanded role: “There’s a big impact when you’re playing a little bit more. You’re getting out on the ice, you’re getting the flow of the game going. Stotsy is starting to trust me more on the penalty kill. You’re getting a better flow of the game and i think that helps out.”
On the team’s trouble scoring: “I thought we played a really good game today and we had a lot of really good chances but the puck just didn’t go in the net. There are some moments where we need to bare down on our opportunities and some moments where maybe you need a kick or two. I don’t think there’s really any excuse for it, it’s just putting the puck in the net.”
On playing with Nic Dowd: “I played with him in college too so the chemistry has always been there. Auger too is a big body down low that can get the puck out to us so that helps out.”
On what he’s trying to improve: “I set a goal for myself at the beginning of the year to get five shots on goal every game. That was one of the big things, just putting pucks on net and they’ll go in.”
On the start to the game: “Every period last game we came out extremely slow so today I think the big thing was to get on them right away and just don’t let them up. A few bounces went their way and we didn’t capitalize on some of our opportunities. The first three powerplays we had we didn’t score on and they scored on the first one.”
On if the powerplay has been discussed after the long drought:
“Oh for sure. Every single day that’s been harped on. It was huge to get the powerplay goal today. Kinda get that off our backs’ now and we can hopefully take off on the powerplay.”
On what adjustments were being made during drought:
“Just putting pucks to the net was basically the big thing. There were a few powerplays where we didn’t even get a shot on goal. We tried something a little different and put two guys in front and just throw pucks at the net, literally get down to the basics, putting pucks to the net and having bodies in front.”
Head Coach Mike Stothers on breaking the powerplay drought: “You’re a numbers guy huh? Are you an accountant? you can do my taxes. I dont put a number on it, but it had been a long time and it was good to see. I was happy for those guys I was happy for Dowder to score. Maybe it’s a good thing for us and maybe it’s a good thing for our powerplay and better things are in front of us.”
Stothers on Johnny Brodzinksi: “Ive been really happy with Brodz. Ive always been a big fan. We talked about him earlier and the fact he was a little snake bit. I believe this kid can score, I believe can make some plays. I thought he was the best player in Stockton the other night, I didn’t mind him the other night here and I thought he was very good again tonight. Thats another encouraging sign. When you have the number of young guys we’ve got playing in the roles and situations that they are, I can see all kinds of progress. There’s a lot to like about Brodz and his game and where he’s going.”
Stothers on Derek Army: “I liked Derek Army tonight, I thought he had a real good game for us. It’s a tough situation he gets up this morning and flies and gets here at noon. Checks into a hotel and gets right back to the rink. He did a real good job won a face-off for us and we ended up scoring a goal. Had another couple of good plays, shot off the pads and I think Backs just missed the net. He provided what we were looking for and made some plays. He didn’t look out of place, I’m sure he was a little nervous and probably a little overwhelmed. Hopefully tomorrow he’ll be a little more comfortable and provide us with a little more.”
On the team’s energy as opposed to last game: “You can tell from my demeanor today I am a lot happier today than I was after the previous game. I thought we played hard and did a lot of good things. The end result wasnt what we were looking for. But when you consider what we have and what were capable of I think the guys played their backsides off. I told them I’ll never complain if we don’t win the game or if we fall a little bit short, so long as the effort is there. We had energy, we had effort, we had chances, we had a physical presence, we skated, we did a lot of things better than we did the other night. I’m excited for us to play again tomorrow at 3:00 and get right back at it and build off what we had going tonight.”
Ontario and Charlotte play again at Citizens Business Bank Arena again Sunday at 3:00 PM. The Reign will try to avoid dropping three straight contests with the Checkers attempt to win their sixth in a row.
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