Monday, December 14th, 2009
Gades hope weekend split marks turnaround
The Renegades etched three points out of this weekend, starting, with a 6-5 overtime loss to the Simcoe Storm Friday and capping it with a 6-3 win in Paris Saturday.
The weekend marks what manager / coach Bill McLeod hopes is a turnaround for the team heading into the final third of the regular season as players cement themselves into leadership positions and take ownership for the team's success.
That includes taking ownership for the team's mistakes -- there were a few large ones Friday -- that led to goals-against on the score sheet. Mistakes such as leaving Brock Smith unmarked in the slot on Simcoe's first goal Friday, or the gift-wrapped puck given to Phil Bethune when a bad clear from behind the Renegades' net landed on his stick in the slot.
"(Goaltender Alex) Gegeny doesn't usually let in those soft ones," McLeod said in reference to Friday's third goal against that slipped between his pads. "The guys get discouraged because they want to establish themselves as a top team, and they know they can't make mistakes."
Particularly against a team like the Simcoe Storm, which, while coach Zane Neily Sr. said wasn't having their best night, also didn't let any opportunities pass by unmarked.
"It was that kind of night. If the puck fell on our stick and we were lucky enough and had a tap in, we scored," Neily said. "Tonight wasn't our best effort. We had one line giving an effort and that was it."
Friday marked the second time the Renegades have kept pace with the Storm, the only Niagara Jr. C west division opponent the Woodstock team has been unable to beat this season. Their last encounter in Woodstock was a 3-2 loss, and there is only one more opportunity on Dec. 27 in Simcoe to take a regular-season win from the Storm.
"It'll take everyone leaving everything on the ice and not taking a period off," Renegade Andy Fallowfield said Friday. "We have to keep shooting from everywhere-- that's how we scored our third goal tonight."
Fallowfield also mentioned Jordan Minello's goal, the night's second for the Renegades, a screamer of a shot from just inside the blue-line seconds into the second frame that hit metal on the goal and got past Storm goaltender Chris Lee.
Saturday's win in Paris was a motivational one, given the Renegades' shorter bench. McLeod said he had only two lines to draw from against a very physical team, leading to a change in strategy. With the score 3-3 and two minutes left, it was time to dig deep and respond or face the possibility of another overtime loss.
"We played pretty smart. We had gotten caught into the physical side, but with five minutes left we looked at the 3-3 score against a team that's in last place," McLeod said. "The guys said 'we're going to have to test ourselves now,' pulled themselves out of (the physical crap) and scored three more goals."
The ability to change strategy will be an important one, even though McLeod doesn't see a lot of change in the standings in the dozen games that remain before the playoffs begin in February. He feels the team has turned a corner however, gotten through a recent losing streak that resulted in changes on the bench.
McLeod has been coaching the team since mid-November, as coach Dave McLaren and his assistants stepped back at the time. McLeod insists they are welcome to return, but had to ensure the team's coaching was tended to.
Bob Langdon has been working with the team this month, and might start joining McLeod on the bench in the new year. He also pointed to captain Cole Maher and assistants Dan Phillips and Justin Pottruff stepping up and taking ownership.
"We don't want to dwell on anything, we want to move on," McLeod said.
The Renegades travel to Caledonia Friday to wrap that east-division regular season set, before hosting the Norwich Merchants in the fifth installment of the Battle of Highway 59 Saturday.