After a disappointing loss in Anaheim on Friday night — where the Reign came from ahead 3-1 to lose 4-3 in OT — Ontario bounced back with a 4-2 win over Bakersfield on Saturday night. With the victory, Ontario completed their preseason schedule with a 3-1-1 record.
Following the game, here’s what coach John Wroblewski had to say…
On if he’s happy with where the team is right now
Yeah. The record is one thing, but I think how we get to it is more important. The quality of play from certain individuals has been there for us, absolutely. I think we ended up 3-1-1, with one of those wins in a shootout. We’ll take that, of course. I think our guys are starting to sort of appreciate – particularly after last night, we learned a real solid lesson about it’s one thing to put up the points and to score, it’s another thing to make those goals hold up. That’s what these guys are learning. It’s not about their production as much as it is tying in the the win to go along with it.
On the rotation of defensemen throughout preseason and if he’s found any pairings he likes
We have nine active d-men right now, so we’re trying to get a look at everybody and get a feel. Bringing in Cameron Gaunce and seeing how he settles into our group tonight was a nice bit of relief for our group. He brought a steady veteran presence out there. I think we’re gonna be fluid on the backend, to be honest. Hopefully, there’s going to be a few guys who solidify their position, but all-in-all, we need to get as many looks at the corps as we can. We need to get players into as many games as we possibly can. If it’s one a weekend or if we have to platoon, make a system where guys are getting in and out, just so that they have something a bank on going into the next weekend or the next set of games. That doesn’t always translate to on-ice chemistry for the team, but I think that with our pool of d-men that’s kind of where we’re leaning right now.
On Mikey Eyssimont and Tobias Bjornfot wearing As this weekend and if that the plan for the 2021 season
It hasn’t been decided. Where they’re at and their position within the locker room, and the dynamic that they’ve displayed thus far — in our very, very brief preseason — they’ve just exemplified some of the traits that we’re looking for from players. Whether or not those guys have it all year, they have the respect of the staff and the organization. We wanted to make sure we recognized that.
On Blaine Byron also wearing an alternate captain last night and if there are any other players who may be part of a larger leadership group
Obviously, we’ve been changing them around and we’re gonna have it by committee. We want to have the youth movement represented, as well, within our leadership group. How that all gets pieced together, I can’t tell you. Again, I’m going to use the word fluid and reactive; we have to be to the situation. I think that we’re going to see — kind of akin to our defensive corps platoon — is that we’re gonna need leadership and we’re gonna need responsibility from guys maybe before they’re even ready for it. We see promise in players, we’re gonna award them ice time. We see promise in leadership qualities, that might lead to a letter for guys, and some responsibility in regard to insight, the team’s pulse, and how it’s being run. We’re going to try to get buy-in from our youth movement and also recognize the personalities and the presence of everyone, and included the veterans in that.
On putting a lineup together that features highly touted prospects up top at forward, then other younger players mixed with AHL veterans
There’s no coincidence to it. I think their skill sets seem to blend together. Look at the ‘top line’ for us, Madden-Kupari-Kaliyev. You have the big center iceman, who seems to have the ice tilted for us all the time. The jackknife with Madden, who the puck always seems to advance and he makes little plays. Then you have the hammer with Arty. Going to Arty’s game, I’ve really liked his 200-foot progress in our brief training camp. I’ve liked him on the forecheck and he’s become increasingly more responsible defensively. I didn’t fully appreciate Arty’s work on the walls either. He does seem to advance the puck and appreciates momentum, as well. Those those guys ended up together and it makes a lot of sense. Then you just start kind of piecing things together. Look at Akil, right now he’s a great distributor, he wins face-offs, and he can kind of help carry a line. We’re trying to get him to get himself into the into the gritty areas. We feel a guy like Eyssimont, he drags Akil into the fight. That’s some of the reason why and how we do things behind the curtain a little bit. Hopefully, as we as we progress here, we’re gonna have some tougher decisions. Maybe we’ll be seeing Turcotte here or Byfield, and maybe some taxi squad supplements coming in, as well. They would change the dynamic of our lines. Hopefully, each line has a driver, a facilitator, and then also the hammer as we try to find our chemistry.
More on Tyler Madden, who led Ontario with six goals in the five preseason games
What do I like about his game? I like everything. Watching him play – I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but you’re just so comfortable when he’s on the ice in every situation. Let’s start 5-on-5, the plays advance; he makes he makes subtle plays to the neutral zone, he makes really good plays in the offensive zone, he can forecheck for you. He knows the game, he’s unbelievably responsible. He knows the penalty kill and when you get him on the power play, he can literally run every position on the power play. For us, it’s a true development situation, where all he needs to do is just keep filling out that frame. And realize the ebbs and flows of the hockey game to its fullest, so he can manage momentum and be a useful component, whether he’s playing 10-12 minutes or playing 17-18 minutes or more. It’s up to us and him to just piece all that together; turn that 165-175 pound frame into a 180 pound frame. That’s all a work in progress and one that I think will be very, very enticing for for the big club when it comes to fruition.
On closing out a team after losing a third period lead in the previous game
I kind of alluded to it at the beginning of the presser here. Our challenge from from yesterday, it’s great that guys pile on the goals and that we can get off to a lead. But, what we need for every single one of these guys is for them to realize that, at the end of the day, it’s about that good feeling in the locker room, that spirit, and that comes with the two points and a win. What we’re trying to get across to these guys is that their value is ultimately decided on wins and losses. They can be fast, strong, pumping one-timers, but ultimately you want to be a winner and you want to be a champion. We’re trying to help those guys along. [Friday] night was an unbelievable learning lesson for us. It was just a couple blinks of the eye, and a great team in San Diego, very talented, they got it behind us. Tonight, I don’t think we answered the bell completely. Look at the 6-on-5 and the Condors had a few chances and an open net that ended up going off the post. Our next challenge is to eliminate that one from happening, as well. We get ourselves into that tight game, we earn the lead, and then we have to be a team that knows how to ice that lead. A couple things, I’d like more of a killer instinct on the power play to get that dagger. Halloran, with an unbelievable net drive to draw the penalty. A little more killer instinct on the PP to put them away. Then also clean things up on our 5v6, so we’re not giving up scoring chances. If we are, then we’re giving our goalie the chance in traffic, as opposed to that backdoor action or the point blank one that we suffered [against the Gulls]. A long, long answer there, but I think it was needed for the question.
Saturday’s lines and D pairings can be found here.
Get to know the new Reign coach here:
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