November 30, 2011
Kevin Slusarski, Ontario Reign PR Intern
Reign Defense Benefits from Forward Thinking
Mark Hardy Makes Adjustments to Absorb Roster Changes
Injuries and call ups have caused great fluctuation within the defensive ranks of the Ontario Reign in recent weeks. Assistant coach Mark Hardy has helped to guide the team through the changes.
While the shots per game against Ontario goaltenders has risen slightly since the shifts began, the Reign have limited opponents to 11 goals and a 16 percent power-play success rate over the last five games. “The kids have played hard and are doing a good job,” said Hardy. “I’m very happy with where the shots are coming from, mostly from the outside.”
The defensive squad dwindled early in November, as Dylan Yeo and Phillippe Seydoux joined fellow blueliners Pat Bowen, Adrian Van de Mosselaer and Jason Fredricks on the injured list.
Just as Yeo, Bowen, and Van de Mosselaer returned to action, the American Hockey League (AHL) came knocking. Yeo, J.P. Cote and Mike Montgomery were all called up to AHL teams, which left Ontario only five active defenseman and forced Hardy to employ winger Shayne Neigum as a sixth defender.
Hardy admits that the sudden departure of three defenseman to the AHL has been tough. Yeo’s loss hurt on both ends, as the team captain was also one of the club’s offensive leaders with nine points (1g, 8a) in eight games. Hardy’s glad, though, that they’ve gotten the opportunity to enjoy their success.
While satisfied with the way the defense has stood players up at Ontario’s blue line, Hardy would like to cut down on turnovers, something he plans to address in practice this week. “We’ve got to get the puck out of our own end a little quicker,” Hardy said. “We’re a very good forechecking team but you can’t create a forecheck if you’re turning over pucks at the blue line.”
Montgomery returns to the Reign lineup tonight as the sixth defenseman which will put Neigum back up front. When asked his assessment of the forward’s defensive performance over the last few games, “I’ve been calling him Shayne Niedermayer,” joked Hardy in a reference to the offensive-minded NHL defender, Scott Niedermayer. “He wants to go end to end with the puck.”