Thursday, June 5, 2014

Media Day Notes: Early Scouting on IceCaps, How To Have Fun in St. John's

Texas celebrates its Game 7 win Tuesday
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
It was the fourth and final round of Texas Stars media day today in Cedar Park. As in previous rounds, here are some collected notes from the players and coaches.

The unknown IceCaps

The IceCaps and Stars have never played each other before in team history. The two clubs shared only two common opponents this season, Hamilton and Toronto, which makes comparing the two squads a little difficult for everyone involved. The situation really puts scouting at a premium.

"Willie's talked to some former players [who played against them]. [Goalie coach] Mike Valley has done some recon with his goalie consultants," said Doug Lidster, who came out for his interview in between watching game tape of St. John's series against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

"It's still hockey," he added.

Defenseman Derek Meech might be able to pick up a second job as the Texas Stars advanced scout. During the Grand Rapids series, he was looked to as a source of information on their style. The story repeats itself against St. John's. The Winnipeg native played 46 games for the IceCaps last season during the lockout.

"Things change quite a bit year to year," Meech said. "I played with about 12 of the guys on the team. There's some familiarity, but they've added a lot of pieces. Those are guys I may not be familiar with, and they could add a lot."

"We'll get some game plan," added Morin. "But that first game will be a learning curve to see how they're going to play."

Lidster agreed, "I expect in Game 1 there will be some feeling out. I think it might take time to show, but the intensity and animosity will be there."

Coach Desjardins compared it a bit to the Memorial Cup, which he coached in twice. In the Memorial Cup, teams from the three major junior leagues across Canada play a short tournament to determine the combined champion of major junior hockey. Only two of the four teams come from the same league each year.

'No friends' on the ice

Speaking of connections between these two teams, Stars captain Maxime Fortunus played four years in Manitoba with St. John's captain Jason Jaffray from 2005-2009.

"He's a good guy and I know him well from playing together," said Fortunus. "We were really tight in Manitoba. He's a player who works hard. He wants it."

Fortunus halted and then added, smiling, "But no friends. We've got no friends on the ice. Last series, I was friends with Drew MacIntyre, and we didn't talk for two weeks. Right now, we have one goal. We'll talk after."

St. John's a 'hard forechecking' team

If Texas can be said to be a team that prides itself on speed and transition, I asked Doug Lidster what the IceCaps' calling card is.

"Right now the reports are they are a hard forechecking and pressure team. They are playing hard, selling out and blocking shots."

He's not worried about adjusting to whatever may come though, "We've been able to make adjustments and play a gritty game [when called for]."

Lidster indicated the whole group would need to work together to overcome the forecheck of the IceCaps, with forwards making extra effort to be available for quick outlet passes.

"Successful breakouts come from staying connected. The forwards need to come back hard and be available, separating themselves from the opposition defenders and creating time and space. If you don't have have an outlet, you're not going to have too much success."

How to have fun in St. John's

I'll just leave this quote here in its entirety from Maxime Fortunus, because it's too good not to post:

"[St. John's] is so far. It's good to see a new city. I really don't know what to expect. All we know about it is that it's far.

"Ray Sawada, who played here and was traded to St. John's, he was playing in May. I called and asked 'What are you doing?' and he said, "I'm going to watch some icebergs right now." In all seriousness, he went to watch icebergs in mid-May."

Finally, asked a bit tongue-in-cheek if St. John's is a tourist destination, Canadian head coach Willie Desjardins quipped, "Every place in Canada is a tourist destination."

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