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Troy Talks: Returning from the break and preparing to sprint through the second half

January 25, 2022

The Belleville Senators were back on the ice at CAA Arena on Tuesday, following a four-day break, which made up for the AHL calling off its annual all star festivities and the fact that most of the B-Sens were in isolation over the holidays.

The team held a high-tempo practice as Head Coach Troy Mann and his staff begin to prepare for a frantic second half of the season, that will see Belleville play 41 games in 93 days to round out the campaign, which now ends on April 30.

We checked-in with Coach Mann to ask about his time off, the preparations for the sprint through the rest of the season and to evaluate a couple of Senators prospects that have been back-and-forth between Belleville and Ottawa.

How was your time off, were you able to get up to anything exciting?

“It was mostly a chance to decompress. My daughter is in school and my wife is teaching on Fridays and Mondays, so those days are pretty much write offs anyways. I just came in here and shuffled some papers from left-to-right and right-to-left, and got a workout in. But it was nice to have the weekend to do some family stuff, catch up on Netflix, get groceries and run errands. I did take the dog for a walk at the Frink Centre Conservation Area, so I don’t know if that’s considered exciting or not?”

What was your message to the group before they left? It seems like some of the guys were able to make the most of the time.

“With no all star break it really did give the guys a chance to get away. We were pretty much in isolation over Christmas as well, so it gave a lot of guys, especially the Western Canadian kids a chance to travel and see their families and friends. Some other guys like Lassi Thomson and Roby Jarventie stayed here, their girlfriends came in from Finland. But it was mostly a time to detach from the game, because once we get through Friday’s game and get back to work next week, we pretty much play three games a week until the last week of the season. I think there’s also a four-game week mixed in in February, so there will be a lot of hockey to play and it was good to get away.”

Do you noticed a difference players’ attitudes when they get back from a break like that?

“I think guys always come back refreshed, that’s probably the best way to put it, they come back with a clear mindset. The grind can always get to you when you’re practicing and playing games, so sometimes when you can get away and get a chance to mentally forget about the game, it’s always refreshing when you come back. There certainly was some energy and work ethic today, so it was a good way to start to get back at it.”

How was practice today and how do you go from a hectic schedule, to a full stop for four days, right into another crazy stretch again?

“From the coaching side we tried to push the pace today and make sure guys were skating, just to get that memory bank back. You know they’re going to have energy and the execution in terms of your puck skills may not be right where it needs to be, but it’s important to have the energy and get skating, so you can get the lungs back. We tried our best to push the pace for 55 minutes, but there really wasn’t a lot of thinking going on. There was some tracking to get the guys to skate, but we didn’t do any video today, no systematic play, just get guys back. We’ll tackle that other stuff starting tomorrow.”

Jacob Bernard-Docker is back after his stint in Ottawa, what are the expectation on the young defender, now that he’s back?

“I think it’s just a matter of him continuing to progress. He’s still auditioning for a full time spot in Ottawa and the Nikita Zaitsev injury has given him and Lassi Thomson a chance to play some games and get evaluated in terms of where their development is at. With him coming down, there’s obviously more practice time and he can use someone like Power Skating Coach Shelley Kettles, who came down today, to tweak his game. I think that’s where the focus needs to be for him and that’s what we’ll continue to push.”

On the flip side, Lassi Thomson is back up again and had made some strides during his last call up. Have you seen much development since he’s been back?

“I don’t know if there’s been much drastic improvement in his game, just because it was such a short period of time he was down here. Quite frankly, I thought he struggled the first couple games after he came down, but got better with each game and I thought the game in Syracuse we had him back to where he was before. I think with Thomson, it’s really a matter of confidence. There are times in our games and practices where some of his details are the best on the back-end, so he just has to be reminded of that. He also just has to remember that when you go up to the NHL level it’s about continuing to execute what we’re looking for, with things like having a good gap, good stick detail, boxing out and winning those 50/50 battles. So it’ll be interesting to see if he can pick up where he left off from when he first got up there. It’s more of an audition for him and it’s a good opportunity.”

What’s the plan for the rest of the week and preparing for the “sprint to the finish”?

“The Marlies are in third place and are one of the teams we’re chasing, so we’ve got to find a way to beat them. I think we’re 1-5 against them with six games to go and it’s a four-point swing every night. Our message to the team is that we need to win a lot of weeks here moving forward and get back to .500. Tomorrow we’re going to tackle some five-on-five play and work on our neutral zone, then do some special teams on Thursday and get at it Friday looking for two points.”

The team is relatively healthy right now, has there been any movement on the injury front?

“Jack Dougherty is still dealing with a separated shoulder and is still about a week away from any contact, Kevin Mandolese is still out day-to-day. Tyrell Goulbourne is coming back this weekend after being away for a couple months, so he’ll start skating on Saturday and it’ll probably take him a couple weeks to get back up to speed from a fitness perspective. Angus Crookshank is going to start skating here eventually and move back to Belleville, but there’s not much of a timeline on his return, it’ll be the doctor’s call. Other than that, we’re in pretty good shape from an injury perspective.”

Finally, Hockey Canada announced its roster for the upcoming Olympics in Beijing and unfortunately, Cody Goloubef was left off the list, however former B-Sens’ forward Adam Tambellini did make it. What can you say about the work both of those guys have put in?

“I always had a lot of time for Tambo when he was here. He’s got NHL speed, and NHL shot and had a pretty solid season for us in 2018-19. I personally feel like the European game is made for not only his skillset, but his mindset as well. He’s done really, really well since leaving Belleville to go over there and it was a pleasant surprise to see him on the list. I did think that with the numbers over in the Swedish Elite League that he would be in contention. For Golo, he was in the mix I think in the final 40 players, or 10-to-12 defencemen. There’s always reasons why some guys get picked over others and I know he’s been working hard and given us some games, but he’s going to stick around on a PTO with us in the event there are injuries. It’s too bad for him, but it’s a deep pool of players and the decision making process is never easy.”