Evansville IceMen Head Coach Rich Kromm discusses the end of the NHL lockout, first half assessment, and second half goals and expectations.
Q: With the NHL lockout coming to an end, what will be the immediate impact to the teams in the ECHL?
A: I think right away everyone is going to be hurting a little because they’re going to be losing a lot of players. You can see it happening already, and I don’t think the full impact has been felt yet, there were still teams waiting to find out when camp was going to start so I think they were leaving guys were they were until they knew for sure. You’ll see teams lose guys Friday and into the weekend probably.
Q: What are the pros and cons of the NHL lockout ending for the IceMen?
A: The cons are right away are that our defense has been depleted. Losing Jesse Perrin to Missouri hurt us and then obviously (Brett) Ponich getting called-up has left us with four healthy defensemen right now. A lot of that stuff you can’t predict, we didn’t know Matt Gens would be sustaining an injury and being out some time, that’s stuff that just kind of happens. The positive is that everyone is going to go through the same thing and I think we’ve got a pretty good core group of our own players plus guys that we think will be here for long-term that have been assigned by our affiliates.
Q: What are some of the growing pains that you’ve encountered and the biggest adjustments you’ve had to make this season?
A: I think it’s just an unusual season because of the lockout and the amount of players we got and some of the timing of it. We had a lot of injuries during that early part of the season that hurt us in a big way and I think we’re healthy now. Then when we got healthy we had a numbers problem with too many guys, so it’s been a juggling act as far as keeping some consistency in the lineup and I think that’s the biggest thing.
Q: How do you assess this team’s overall performance in the first half of the season?
A: I think we underperformed with what we expected to do with the group we have here. I think some of it had to do with just like I’m talking about with inconsistency in the lineup, not knowing who’s going to be here, and the injuries that were sustained really hurt us for a long period of time. I think that overall we didn’t achieve what we wanted to and certainly we have a lot of work to do in the second half.
Q: What are the goals and expectations for this team entering the second half of the season with the reality that ECHL teams have and will lose some key components because of the NHL ending its lockout?
A: We’re just looking at five-game segments and we are trying to focus on winning a number of those games and getting a certain amount of points every five games to kind of creep our way back into that playoff spot. That’s going to be our goal right now in getting that eighth playoff spot.
Q: With the team having scored nine goals in the last two home games, what has been the difference maker offensively?
A: Having (Wade) MacLeod being assigned from Springfield helped us a lot. Some of the other players like (Anthony) Nigro and (Sebastian) Wannstrom are starting to feel comfortable. Wannstrom was assigned here then got the flu and wasn’t able to play but now he’s healthy and contributing, so I think that gives us that much more depth in our lineup.
Q: The team has an overwhelmingly better record when scoring the game’s first goal, how much emphasis do you put on getting on the board first?
A: I think that it’s important that you’re prepared and ready to go at the beginning of the games and that goes for any team, you get a lead and it’s easier to play. The other team has to open up more and as a result will create some issues defensively by taking more chances so I think getting the first goal for us is going to be key every night.