LANTZ: Having enough depth to run a full slate of four lines and six defence will be key to the next month of action for the East Hants Junior Penguins.
The Pens begin the second half of the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League on Jan. 10 in Cole Harbour, as they look to improve on their second place record of 19-3-0-1 (won-loss-overtime loss-shootout loss) in the Fred Fox Division. That has them a point shy of the Colts (40-39) as of Jan. 2.
“We have a very deep team this year and have been able to play four lines and six D consistently without having to shorten the bench too much,” said Isenor. “This will be even more important over the coming weeks as we will need to keep guys as fresh as possible.”
He said the teams practices this month will be more focused on systems and skill work.
“We have enough games that we don’t need to exhaust our players during practices,” he said.
Rest and keeping the players fresh will be a big part of coach Laurie Isenor and his staff’s job as the team plays nine games in a 21 day span beginning Jan. 10, and 11 in 30 days to end the season on Feb. 9. That includes a week in mid-January where they hit the ice for game action four times in a six day span, with three of those on the road—one of thpose to Cape Breton for a date with the Jr. Miners.
“We had a goal when we started this season that we wanted to win a provincial championship,” he said. “That goal hasn’t changed and has been all the motivation we have needed.
We are a long way from that goal but the guys have gelled and bought in to what we are trying to do. We have very tight knit group, they all want to win for one another.”
Now with Ryan Huestis of Wellington being the number one guy, how will the team set his schedule for games he plays with such a busy schedule? Backup Brent Watters will get to shoulder some of the load for the Pens.
“Brent has been excellent for us all year and has stepped in when needed and won us games,” said Isenor. “We will certainly lean on him to take some of the load off of Ryan over this next stretch. Brent has the toughest job on the team. Sometimes not playing for three or four weeks, we ask him to step in and play well and he has not disappointed.”
Isenor said the team would like to thank the community for their tremendous support all season long.
“The crowds at the Sportsplex have been fantastic,” he said.
Hopefully that will only increase as the Pens players can use any extra boost during this tough stretch as they eye a provincial title and berth to the Don Johnson Cup.