The AQ’s Matt Tidcombe sits down with men’s hockey head coach Troy Ryan to discuss the season ahead.
How did the summer go in terms of recruiting players for this year?
I was pleased with the guys we were able to bring in. We brought in three defensemen, a goalie and a couple of forwards so I think we answered a couple of our needs. We’re in a similar situation in next year where I’m going to lose three or four forwards, so I think once we’re able to answer those needs then it’s going to be the real telling story on how we’re going to do as a program moving forward.
You brought in Jonathan Groenheyde to play in goal this year, but you also have Justin Collier who was on the team last year. How is the goaltending situation going to play out?
I’m not sure… it’s yet to be determined. I don’t think either one of them has completely run away with being the number one guy the whole way through but I like the way Jon carries himself. He’s a big, athletic goalie with a lot of experience and understands the game well. Justin did well last year when called upon so I’m comfortable with both of them right now. I’m not in a position yet to be naming number ones or number twos, but I think we’re going to continue to go with Jon right now.
It’s well known that you have a short bench again this year. How much of a concern is that to you?
It’s a concern, but there’s nothing that can be done about it right now. I’m confident that if we can stay healthy, and if our guys buy into what wer’e trying to teach them and what we’re trying to accomplish here then we’ll be fine. You know, it’s one of those things where a lot of people just think you need to have 24 or 25 players and if you can try to control as much as you can control with how your fitness and things like that, then we’ll be fine. A lot of people aren’t aware that a lot of minor pro leagues, like the East Coast Hockey League, they only dress 16, 17 players, let alone 20. But realistically, I look at my top four d-men are going to play more than my fifth and sixth defensemen, and my top nine forwards are going to play more than my bottom three forwards. So as long as we can stay healthy we’ll be fine.
What do you think are the teams strengths and weaknesses?
It’s all kind of flip-flopped. Last year I thought we weren’t strong enough on the back end for us to be successful, this year I think our defense is going to be great and it’s definitely going to be our strength. I guess one of the negatives, but also positive for our D is that we’re going to have to try and produce from the back end. So we’re going to have to try and score from abck there. That’s tough at this level, especially when you’re dealing with so many new guys on the back end. Goaltending, right now I see it as a positive moving forward. We weren’t going to have Charlie [Lavigne] forever. I thought Charlie did well, he was arguably one of the best goalies in the league, but didn’t win. So the bottom line is he didn’t win. So we have an opportunity now to get a guy that’s done well at the major junior level, has carried the bulk of the load for a couple of other teams. It’s tough to throw him into a number one role in year one, but moving forward I’m very comfortable in our goaltending. We’re offensively challenged though. We have to find ways to score and I think the only way we’re going to be successful offensively is if everybody picks up a little bit, but that we work hard enough five on five to draw penalties, and then try to score on the powerplay.
Do you think this team can make the playoffs this year?
I don’t like talking about it too much. Our goal here isn’t to make the playoffs and be a team once in a while that makes the playoffs. Our ultimate goal is to get into the top four of the league and if that happens this year, or next year or two years down the road, that’s the ultimate goal.