The Stephenville Jets picked up their first win of the season in the final game before the Christmas break, so there wasn’t any chance to ride the momentum.
However, coach Rob French looked at the victory as a sign of good things to come in the second half of the season and isn’t worried about momentum building when all three teams will come back to the ice a little rusty after a break from the action.
The Jets beat the Corner Brook Royals 4-3 in overtime in the final game of the West Coast Senior Hockey League before players took a break from the ice to spend the holidays with family and friends.
The two points look good on paper, but, more importantly, French is excited about the second half, knowing the win over the Royals was the first game of the year where he had a full roster of players.
The Jets have been struggling to ice a team in the early going with a shortage of bodies. French had games where he had to play his top players over and over again because his hands were tied with a short bench, the norm for the first few games of the year.
He is going to have a number of new players in the lineup for the rest of the year who are committed to the long haul. Those extra bodies to work with includes seasoned veterans like Tim Caines and Brad Lucas, who will bring a lot of experience, speed and finesse to the lineup, and also be able to contribute in a big way on the scoresheet.
French believes he will be more effective as a coach with a full roster because he can use key players in key situations and not worry about them being exhausted in the third period.
“It gives me an ability to be able pick and choose who goes on the ice and also give our top players a rest,” he said.
Players will have to work hard for their ice time now. With extra players signed, somebody will have to sit out and French is leaving the onus on the players to show him how badly they want to be in the lineup. That’s a luxury he never had before the break.
A full complement of players is something Jets forward Nathan Ellsworth is looking forward to when the Jets return to the ice tonight with a showdown against the Port aux Basques Mariners at 8 p.m. at the Stephenville Dome.
Ellsworth logged a lot of minutes for the Jets during the first few games. He said it was tough having to play so many minutes because he isn’t in the same game shape he was in when he played junior on the mainland and spent five days a week working on his game.
He said senior hockey is tough if you don’t have four lines to roll, especially if the team has to play back-to-back games on the weekend. He’s glad the Jets won’t have to finish games with four or five forwards like he saw in a few games and welcomes a few more players to ease the burden.
“With a deep bench now, when you actually get your chances you can capitalize,” he said. “We were getting chances and then we didn’t have the legs to capitalize. Even when it came to power plays our legs were pretty much well gone the whole game, so it’s good to have a full lineup, especially on the Olympic-size ice in Stephenville.”
Ellsworth looks forward to playing big minutes because the team expects him to be an offensive leader, but he welcomes a supporting cast and believes the Jets will be tougher to play against with a full squad ready to go.