Monday afternoon brought the Ontario Reign’s first loss of 2021, coming in a 4-2 exhibition contest vs. the Tucson Roadrunners. Following the game, here’s what Ontario coach John Wroblewski had to say…
On if he has seen the changes in Rasmus Kupari’s game that he was looking for
I think that there’s signs of it, but there’s still an opportunity to last night where he got into open ice in the second period and sort of slowed down and then took a snapshot from the outside when I would’ve really like to see him trying to power the defenseman wide and if he couldn’t get to the post make a quick turn and look for delay move there. All in all, he played about 17 minutes, I would say. We don’t have clocks in the exhibition game for time on ice, but I think he played about 17 minutes powerplay, penalty kill, and I thought he was tremendous. He made a lot of things happen and for me, it’s a learning process. I have an idea what his game is but I don’t know the ins and outs. He knows his game better than I do right now and it’s a mutual adventure where we’re gonna both have to figure each other out a little bit and I’ll help him and, ultimately, he’s the player. He’s got to go out and make the decisions how he plays. We’ll just try to help him along and blend in this power game with his finesse game.
On his thoughts on Cole Hults’ pro debut after offseason surgery
It’s a lot of time off. The shot’s there, I thought he did a lot of really good things individually, and I think that there’s a couple points where when things start to break down where maybe he wasn’t as comfortable in the spots. I think that that’s something that he’s just gonna have to work through with playing games. Chris Hajt [Assistant Coach] will be working with him on the video and we’ll get him to where he needs to go. I thought there was a good baseline for him and he had a lot of quality touches with the puck and I think that that’s something we can build on.
On what he pictures as his top line and top pairing going into Opening Night in two weeks
We kind of blended the pairs a little bit, it was it was [Tobias Bjornfot] with [Austin Strand] there for the first couple games and we wanted to see [Bjornfot] and [Sean Durzi] together today, see if we couldn’t manufacture a couple different looks from the offensive blue line. I think that we’re still in a melting pot phase here where we’re going to talk it over as a staff and go from there. Unfortunately, I don’t have a concrete answer for you on the back end, but you can kind of see how things are playing out up front. We really like the idea where [Tyler] Madden and [Arthur] Kaliyev are. I thought that [Akil] Thomas that that line with [Blaine] Byron and [Mikey] Eyssimont had some that’s a really good chemistry as well. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing some reinforcements here with [Quinton] Byfield getting healthy. We’ll see. I’m sure there’ll be a question about that. We’ll just hopefully keep piecing things together. We’re starting to see some chemistry. I really liked the way that our offensive zone looked today at times. I thought that you’re getting three players up around the perimeter, so it’s simplified our numbers around the net and then converging at the appropriate times. I really like the way that that looked we had a great goal from Austin Strand with our net front domination from Thomas there. I liked a lot of things. I thought today we just had some we had some young legs that were trying to find their way in a three-in-four and just couldn’t quite find that last one to tie things up, but I really liked our push and I really appreciated the fact that the guys just never quit. In fact, it almost seemed like fueled on. A group of guys that not only wants to win but seem like they hated the position they were at, being down.
On if he is able to tell the difference between twins Nick and Jack Poehling on the ice
They are very difficult to tell apart. I’ve coached against them for a few years, in the USHL they were on Green Bay. They were very difficult to tell apart, but they were both really good players. I liked Poehling today, I liked him yesterday too. I thought that scoring a goal is a really neat bonus for a guy in his American League debut. More impressively, I liked his momentum game. I thought his wall play was exceptional against a very diligent Tucson team on the walls. They’re D pinched really impressively.
On his impressions of Tobias Bjornfot in a small sample size
I like Toby’s presence out there. I think that he’s still feeling out the game a little bit. I would like a little bit more impact with the puck, not necessarily forcing offense, but just some more quality touches, some more shots on net. I thought that he was okay on the power play. I think there’s more there, but we love Toby and we’re gonna push for him to continue. It’s sort of new to for me, he doesn’t report to us until right before the weekend and tried to grasp a few of our of our concepts we’re trying to implement with Ontario. It’s a new situation and I think that he’ll just grow and grow and grow and I’m looking forward to seeing his game maybe after sitting back here and having a little reflection, a little video, a couple days of practice, and then and then we’ll reload and rerack with him on Friday night.
On the difference between a convincing win in game one and a loss in game two vs. Tucson
It’s a team in Tucson with a lot of pedigree over there, winning expectations. We knew that they were going to come back with a strong answer after surrendering five, and then of course they clawed back in with some special teams yesterday and a really strong push. We expected them to carry that over with their second game in two days. We were negotiating our three-in-four. What do we have to build on? I thought there was a lot of really good things. I wouldn’t say that our effort was much different. I think that maybe we just didn’t have the tenacity and/or energy stores to finish as well as we did yesterday. That’s something that we’ll continue to bolster through our practice plans and habits to make these guys, these young players build their engines as strong as we possibly can, so when we do find ourselves into these situations, we have enough in the tank for that final push on Sunday afternoon, or today and Monday.
On the presence of Brent Sutter and other veterans on a rookie-heavy team
It’s massive. Let’s talk about on the ice. I thought [Brent Sutter’s] game really started to take form and I have a tough time with being a critical of any of those guys that have had 10-11 months off and then also miss out on training camp opportunities and things like that. They’re busy just getting thrown right in with the wolves with lot of young players that have been playing and in training camp for a long time here. With [Sutter], he says the right things on the bench, he says the right things in the locker room. As much as it is important to have that macro ability to talk to the team, just being able to bring along the guy, a young player to maybe it’s [Aidan] Dudas on how to handle his health and to work his game or if it’s a younger player, say it’s [Akil] Thomas or [Arthur] Kaliyev with their practice habits, just something along those lines, you can just be another voice. He sees what the coaches see a lot quicker than the other guys. Then he can be critical of players or help them along with little detail things, whether it’s a drill in practice or if it’s a face-off play that they missed on, he can be that that coach that’s watching the game at the same time and give that that player almost like a like a big brother, the right the right message or the right boost.
On what they are going to focus on in practice with no game until next Friday
There’s a lot we need to reinforce. I think that the offense zone play for us is critical and imperative for our success. Just being able to control the grind of the game which will allow us to then control line rush. Going back in our own end, there’s a lot of individual work. I don’t think it’s necessarily a team issue, but there’s certain areas we need to make sure that guys are aware of their jobs specifically. We’re gonna hit the majority of players with individual video, try to shore up some of their detail things particularly in their own end and then you know as a team just continue to bolster what we’re doing offensively and rep it out. I think that we’ll take tomorrow off, get the guys away from the rink, they’ve been going eight straight days, and then we’ll rerack on Wednesday and get them up and down the ice and really work on their skills. When we get into that second period and we’ve got those breakaways and two-on-ones, I think we had four of them there in the last 10 minutes, we need to convert on those. That’s an item that we’ll definitely address. A lot of positives coming out of this this weekend and I was quite pleased with our turnout. If you would have said our results beforehand, I would have taken them over the weekend.
Today’s lines and D pairings can be found here.
Get to know the new Reign coach here:
More postgame comments linked below.
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