Stothers Dissects First Round Match-up Ahead Of Game 1

Stothers Monarchs AHL by Rich Tilton

In their first year as an AHL team, the Ontario Reign have found plenty of success. Having left Manchester as Calder Cup champions, the Reign followed up their championship season by winning the inaugural Pacific Division crown. On top of that, the team placed fourth in league wide attendance, seeing nearly 3,000 more fans per game than the league average.

Having wrapped up the regular season, the Reign now head into the post-season hoping to defend their title as champions. While the LA Kings and San Jose Sharks battle it out in the opening round of the NHL playoffs, their respective AHL affiliates will clash as well, as the Reign take on the San Jose Barracuda. Ahead of their Game 1 match-up, we caught up with Reign head coach Mike Stothers to help break down the matchup…

On how he breaks down the series:

“First, and foremost, I think it’s pretty unique in the fact that the Kings are playing the Sharks and we’re playing the Barracuda. I think that, in and of itself, makes it interesting and exciting. We’re looking forward to it. The fact that we made the playoffs – we’re pretty happy about that. At least, playing San Jose, we’re familiar with them. We’re familiar with this building. We played them 12 times. We know it’s going to be a tough series. It’s (best) three-out-of-five. That in and of itself is probably a little concerning for both teams. I’m not sure why the American Hockey League does it that way. Three-out-of-five, there’s not a whole lot of room for a clunker or a bad game.”

On if coming in as the defending champion puts an extra target on their back:

“I don’t think so. Nobody really remembers last year. Maybe if we were still in Manchester, you could say that. We’ve moved clear across the country, and it’s a totally different roster. There’s a few guys back. I just think – nobody remembers.”

On the biggest roster differences between last year’s Calder Cup team and this year’s team:

“Well, we had some depth in offense. When you take Shore, Weal, O’Neill, Miller, Bods, guys like that, that’s a lot of offense right there. I thought we were pretty good last year defensively. This year, we made or put a little bit more of a premium on defensive play and not giving up a whole lot of shots. Budaj has been terrific for us. He’s been our MVP. It made a difference for us there. We got a great year out of Backman and the guys that were returning. LoVerde was terrific for us again. So I think that’s been helpful. And then, we got some help from a young guy like Brodzinski, who came in and took a while before he got some goals. He’s been finding the back of the net for us. A little bit of a different look, but the systems are still the same. We expect our guys to play a hard and heavy game, and we’ll continue it through.”

On if there is any concern with Budaj’s stamina after a heavy workload during the regular season:

“I don’t know if it was heavy. We played 68 games. He didn’t play all of them – he played 60. So he had 8 games off! That’s what? One off a month. I think it works out great.”

 

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