Not the end results you hoped for, but what positives came out of last weekend’s preseason losses to Charlotte?
We needed to see where we were at, and we saw that. On Friday we really weren’t happy with where we were at, but Saturday I thought was better. We still needed work this week, and we’re continually working to improve that. The goal is to be firing on all cylinders Friday night.
Heading into Friday night, what areas do you see as the team’s strongest? Well, I think goaltending is obviously huge. With (Braden) Holtby on his way down, and (Todd) Ford…the rest of the league will be hard pressed to match that. I think we have fantastic goaltending. Offensively, our defensemen are very good. We’ve got guys that, in a normal year, would be starting up in the AHL, for sure. It’s just, with the way things played out, we’ve got some guys back in (Zach) Tarkir and (Johann) Kroll, that are elite players in our league.
One of the decisions that still need to be made is the appointment of a team captain as well as alternate captains. Is that a choice you’ll make, or will you let the players decide?
I’m leaving that open right now. I’m just looking to see how things play out, and who steps up. I think it’s important to delay that decision because things change, the roster reshapes itself.
How much do you know about your opening night opponent, the Wheeling Nailers?
We know they have a history of being a highly-potent offense. Once again, they’ve got players that are very skilled up front and on the backend. They’re going to be highly-skilled and will really push us, so we’re definitely preparing for a game where we’re going to need to be aware, physical, and make sure that we are responsible all over the ice. If not, it makes for a long night.
Let’s look around the South Division. What teams stand out in your mind? Any teams that you feel are improved from a year ago?
Well, I think Florida is improved. I think they have a very decent lineup down there. Once again, Malcolm (Cameron) has recruited well, and will be a force again. I think Gwinnett has made great strides based on some of the moves Jeff Pyle has made. They’re going to be a team to reckon with, for sure. Charlotte, also. I think that every team in our division has really improved their lineup. That’s a result of the glut of players that are available in the league this year. The ECHL is going to be a very good league, especially right off the bat when everybody’s down and everyone’s firing on all cylinders.
You mentioned Braden Holtby earlier. You certainly received a major boost with his addition yesterday from Hershey. What’s it going to mean having him down here?
I think it’s going to be good. Braden has played outstanding up in Hershey up until this point. That’s a testament to how deep their goaltending situation is in Hershey, that he’s making his way down here. I think he’s going to give us that one-two punch that is really valuable in our league. You need to have the backend secured, and between Braden and Todd, we’re going to do just that.
Do you see each goaltender starting one game apiece this weekend?
We’ll look at it, but I think that I’ll make that decision as we go along. I’d hate to make a decision now, because I think you have to watch and see how everything plays out.
As Friday draws near, how are your nerves?
I think I’ll be nervous as it draws near, but today’s roster day and I’ve got so many things going on that it keeps my mind occupied. As the clock ticks down to Friday night, though, it’ll be a different story. We’ll have a full building, and everyone’s anxious to see the new Rays and celebrate last year’s accomplishments. It’ll be a great night.
Lastly, what’s it going to mean to you seeing another Kelly Cup banner added to the rafters of the Coliseum on Friday night?
It’s going to be something really special. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into last year. I told the guys that are here and going to be in the building that they should be very proud of that. It’s a great accomplishment, something we should learn from and be conscious of carrying forward on a good foot.
Mark your Calendars – The Stingrays Opening Weekend is set for this Friday, October 16 against the Wheeling Nailers and Saturday, October 17 against the Charlotte Checkers.
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