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Troy Talks: Road trip recap, preparing for some rivalry games and more

February 16, 2022

Despite having another game postponed due to COVID-19 protocols affecting their opponent, the Belleville Senators are still preparing for a busy and crucial stretch of the season, with a pair of games against both the Toronto Marlies and Syracuse Crunch over the Family Day Long Weekend.

We caught up with Head Coach Troy Mann to reflect on last week’s road trip (which saw the Sens pick up two wins and a loss), get more info on preparations for this weekends’ games, an injury update and more, in this week’s edition of Troy Talks.

Looking back on last week’s road trip to Pennsylvania, do you consider earning four of a possible six points as “mission accomplished” for the trip?

“Any time you go on the road into three tough buildings and come away with four points, I think you’ve got to be happy. I think looking back at the three games, the performance in Hershey probably wasn’t our best, in terms of the details of the game. We were loose defensively and while the fans might have enjoyed the game because of all of the chances and the atmosphere, I thought we got away from how played on Tuesday and Friday. In the grand scheme of things though, you’ll take 4/6 points and I know how tough all three of those buildings are. We gained some ground in the standings and that’s the most important thing right now.”

It seems like the consistency in the lineup has been there and making a difference?

“Yeah, for sure. When you’re always going day-to-day with the roster, your line combos and not knowing who’s in the lineup or starting, it can be difficult. But I think things have stabilized to some degree and we’ve got a bit of a rhythm. Gustavasson and Sogaard have been good, we’ve got a few defencemen that can play regularly in this league if there is an injury, or recall, so we feel good about who we can put in. We’d like to see a bit more depth up front, but that seems to be where the injuries are for Ottawa and consequently, we get hurt by that as well.”

Who are some of the players who stood out to you on last week’s trip?

“Gustavsson obviously had two great games, even though he wasn’t tested as much in Lehigh Valley, but any time a goaltender shuts another team out it means they made some good saves. I thought he gave us a great chance to win the game in Wilkes-Barre in the third period on Friday when they made a push to get back in the game. I thought Sokolov was our best player on Saturday night and seemed to thrive in that atmosphere. Our defence was good in general, but I thought Zac Leslie had a good week. Especially because he had been a healthy scratch due to depth, and that’s not easy for a veteran guy who can play in this league, but he got points in all three games.”

You mentioned the crowd and atmosphere. Given that things seem to be moving in the right direction here, how much is the team looking forward to getting some of that atmosphere and support here at home? 

“Our guys have played in front of basically no fans for two seasons now, so it’s almost a shock to the system when you go into some of those buildings. It was a bit dead in Lehigh Valley Tuesday because it was a make-up game and there weren’t many fans but if you look at Wilkes-Barre on Friday night, I think they had 5,000 people, then you go into Hershey and it was practically sold out with over 10,000 people. Hopefully, now that things are moving along here in Canada, we’ll start to see some of those crowds here in our building but also in Toronto and Laval. It’ll be nice to get back to those types of scenarios.”

How important is this stretch of games?

“We don’t want our players to look too far ahead, but we’ve started posting the standings in the change room each day, because things change in a hurry due to divisional play. If you look at our next seven games, they’re against teams that are in our division and two of the three are in front of us. So, if we have any hope of catching Laval or Toronto, we need to win those games and Syracuse is right with us. Every week is going to be important, and the divisional games are just that much more of a priority.”

How does the postponement of Wednesday’s games impact your preparations?

“From our perspective, we felt we were just getting into the rhythm of playing three games a week, but this is one season where you have to have adaptability. Unfortunately, Montreal and Ottawa decided it was in everybody’s best interest to reschedule the Wednesday game, so we decided to do an optional skate today. I think four practices in a week ahead of a game is probably too much this time of year, after we did a skills practice yesterday and a high-tempo practice yesterday. So today we gave the guys a choice of whether they wanted to skate, or workout and tomorrow we’ll get some pace going and work on special teams. We’ve got to get ready for two games against Toronto, who have given us some trouble this year and we’ve got to find a way to get points this weekend.”

What’s the latest on the injury front?

“Tyrell Goulbourne is back and now it’s just a matter of getting his conditioning back up. I don’t know if we’ll see him until next week unless he’s forced into playing because of injuries. Andrew Agozzino and Matt Wedman are both day-to-day after getting banged up on the weekend. They didn’t practice Monday or Tuesday, but we’re hoping they’ll be available for the weekend. Mitchell Hoelscher hurt his knee in practice in Wilkes-Barre and is likely out two-to-four weeks. Jack Dougherty has been cleared to play, after he came on the road with us last week to start some contact, so he’s ready to go and available. Lassi Thomson has also been cleared to play, after missing the games on the road trip. We had hoped he’d play last week, but he wasn’t feeling great in Wilkes-Barre, but he looked really good in practice yesterday and is available to play this weekend.”