UNO Hockey Assistant Coach Paul Jerrard, senior forward Ryan Galt, and senior defenseman Jalen Schulz answered media questions as part of the “Omaha Athletics Weekly Media Availability” on Dec. 4, 2018.
Jerrard fielded questions regarding the UNO Hockey team’s series against Colorado College on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, and the upcoming series at St. Cloud State on Dec. 7 and 8 at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, MN.
(According to Omaha World-Herald beat writer Tony Boone on 590 AM, Coach Gabinet wasn’t at the presser due to a family emergency.)
The following quotes are excerpts from the news conference. To view the press conference video in its entirety, click here.
ON TEAM DEFENSE...
JERRARD: “My big thing on the defensive game: it’s not just the defensemen, it’s a ‘team defense’ with all five players on the ice. We’ve worked on a lot of that. We have to be stronger in some of the individual areas, defending-wise, and just some of the little subtleties — defending with the sticks and body positions are a huge thing. So those are the things that we try to promote. Again, we’ve been getting better and better at it, but it’s a work in progress.”
HOW HAVE THE PLAYERS HANDLED THE “TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK” NATURE OF THE 2018-19 SEASON?
JERRARD: “I guess it’s kind of like all of us. You think you’re making progress some days — you never like to take that step back. But we just kind of keep pushing forward and keep drilling the same things — the same basic principles day in and day out. Hopefully — like every team in the country — you’re just trying to find that consistency. Hopefully, we’ll get that consistency as we keep moving forward.”
FEELINGS ON THE PLAYERS RESPONSE TO THE TEAM’S DEFENSIVE GOALS — ARE THEY PICKING UP THE THINGS BEING TAUGHT?
JERRARD: “Very much so. It’s very evident in our play. As I watch the game — and as I re-watch it on video — you can see a lot of really good things happening. We’re trying to build off all the positives that we have in the games.”
JERRARD: “When there are some low-lights in the games, we use those as teaching points for the group to get better.”
ON WORKING WITH A NEW TEAM THIS SEASON — REALITY VS. EXPECTATIONS...
JERRARD: “The reality is the reality of what we have. I knew exactly what I was getting into, expectation-wise. I was in the college game when I first started. I really cherish the opportunity to teach and help the players get better. That’s the big challenge for me — I think it’s making me a better coach. Because now I have to break down my teaching, and some of the finer points of the teaching, and have to relate it to the players who aren’t quite as experienced as the players I’ve previously coached.”
JERRARD: “It’s a lot of fun. To me, it’s all about seeing the players grow. Wherever I have been — not so much in the National Hockey League — but when you’re talking about my previous college stint or in the American Hockey League, it’s always great to see the players get better and better.”
JERRARD: “For me, the biggest reward to the job is seeing guys get an opportunity to advance on.”
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE CEILING FOR THE MAVERICKS THIS SEASON?
JERRARD: “I think there is a lot of improvement that certainly can happen. They took over last year — Gabs’s first year — and they’ve done a great job — with him and Bernie — putting in a great foundation. We’re just trying to build upon that.”
JERRARD: “And, hopefully, as we continue to build upon that, the message has been pretty consistent throughout all three of us, day in and day out. And eventually you’re going to see the consistency of our game get better.”
THOUGHTS ON THE SERIES AT ST. CLOUD...
JERRARD: “We have to go in and focus on playing our game and doing the things that we do well. If we do that, and just focus shift-by-shift, I think we’ve got a good chance.”
THOUGHTS ON THIS YEAR’S FRESHMEN...WARD IN PARTICULAR...
JERRARD: “Ward has been a great surprise. He’s showing his hockey smarts and his offensive ability. He’s certainly earned his spot in the lineup where he is at.”
JERRARD: “When you look at the other freshmen, they are all continuing to work. These kids are really like sponges to learn. They’re spending the extra time after practice. Extra time in the video room with either myself or Coach Noel-Bernier to get better.”
ON THE BENEFITS OF HAVING TYLER WEISS BACK IN THE LINEUP...
JERRARD: “Any time a guy gets behind a little bit in such a fast-moving league — that every team is so good in — he’s a little bit behind due to his injury, but he’s working hard to play catch-up. We expect he’ll have little growing pains like all the freshmen, but we expect him to be a real good player here as we move forward.”
ON THE IMPACT OF PLAYING ON THE OLYMPIC-SIZE ICE SHEET AT ST. CLOUD...
JERRARD: “I think a lot of the little things that we talk about day in and day out are going to be very, very important.”
JERRARD: “I think one of the big things that we have to be careful not to do — especially in our own D-zone — is not get over-extended by chasing these guys around.”
JERRARD: “We want to be real strong getting our initial contacts down low and bringing in some help. But if they start cycling around, I think we have to just play a little bit more pass and just clog up the middle of the ice on these guys.”
PLAYER THOUGHTS ON THE ST. CLOUD SERIES...
GALT: “We’re excited. There’s a different feel. I think it helps a little bit that Christmas break is coming up. We’ve been working our tails off. We worked our tails off yesterday. We came together as a group and decided that we’re gonna try to ride this one out and get a couple wins up there. Obviously, it’s St. Cloud, they are a tough team to play. So we’re doing things accordingly this week so that we prepare ourselves the best way we can.”
SCHULZ: “It’s exciting. Especially going up against a conference team that’s number one. You always want to be the best. So to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.”
SCHULZ: “It’s a good challenge for us. Especially to end out this first half.”
SCHULZ: “If we can go up there and play well, and execute, I think that’ll wrap up a decent first half.”
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE ST. CLOUD SERIES GOING INTO THE BREAK...
GALT: “It’s very important. Especially with the long break that we have — I think it’s 10-12 days. So you’d rather be — on those 10-12 days — on a high note, or a good mindset coming back. Rather than being down — whatever you are — coming into the second half.”
PLAYER THOUGHTS ON THE OLYMPIC-SIZE ICE SHEET AT ST. CLOUD...
SCHULZ: “We knew that St. Cloud was the only bigger sheet that we’d play on. It does add a different element to the game, because it’s their home rink, so they’re used to that extra space and time with the puck. I think everybody growing up has played on an Olympic sheet.”
GALT: “Defensively, it’s more of a challenge because they have more space to utilize. But also, offensively we still have a highly skilled offense — including the D(efense) and forwards. So that’ll benefit us as well.”
DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO PLAYING THE TOP-RANKED TEAMS?
SCHULZ: “Absolutely. These are the kind of games that it’s easy to wake up for because you’re excited to play the number one team in the country. If you can play well against them — and get a win or two — it’s definitely good for your rankings.”
THOUGHTS ON THE TEAM LOOKING BACK AT THE FIRST PART OF THE SEASON... AND THE SATURDAY GAME AGAINST COLORADO COLLEGE...
GALT: “If Saturday didn’t happen — say Saturday wasn’t a thing — I would be talking differently, obviously. We took a few steps back there.”
GALT: “We just weren’t ready for that game. But we’ve regrouped, we’re back together. We had a meeting directly after that game — saying that literally just isn’t us as a team. So, I think we took a few steps forward in that sense, but we have to keep working on understanding who we are as a team. And work together as a unit.”
SCHULZ: “I don’t think we were really surprised at how good they were. We had talked about — after the weekend — we thought we played ‘okay’ [on Friday], but not as much on Saturday.”
SCHULZ: “Everybody had kind of talked about, ‘Well, they’re on like a four-game losing streak’ or whatever it was... yeah, they were playing some of the top teams in the country. It’s not just any other team. We knew they were a good team coming into it. I thought we were decently prepared, but we need to be better.”
GALT: “We knew they were going to be a lot better than our past three years. We did look at their schedule — and who they’ve played.”
GALT: “I would say they compare pretty well to us, CC does.”
WAS THERE A LETDOWN AFTER WINNING THE SUDDEN DEATH SHOOTOUT AGAINST CC ON FRIDAY?
SCHULZ: “That’s a huge thing in any sport. The momentum you gain from the night before — that game before — can lead into that next night. We always say that, too. Whether it’s a win or loss, your third period leads into the next night. I think they played well in that third period — and even in overtime they had some chances as well. The momentum bled over to Saturday for sure.”
ON THE TEAM BALANCING GAME PREP AND ACADEMICS GOING INTO THE HOLIDAY BREAK...
SCHULZ: “Especially for the younger guys — it’s a bigger group, like we’ve talked about. So, this is kind of their first go-round with finals, and planning everything out accordingly. Any questions they have, they’re always coming to the older guys.”
GALT: “It’s definitely a tougher time that people don’t realize that we go through these last two weeks. During the regular season — not counting finals — it’s not too tough to balance what you’re doing with schoolwork and everything. These last couple weeks are tough just because everything starts building up. Your road trips start building up the work that you may not have completed, or didn’t get a chance to. And you kind of have to catch up a little bit. So, we’re trying to teach [the freshmen] and also teach ourselves how to balance everything.”
WILL PLAYERS GET TO GO HOME OVER THE HOLIDAY BREAK?
GALT: “It was nice. Gabs let everybody know way early — in like August or September — the times and the dates. So even the Finnish and Swedish guys get to go home — and Czech, obviously. So that’s good.”