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Troy Talks: Road trip recap and an unorthodox mid-season break

January 19, 2022

The Belleville Sens have a bit of time on their hands, now that they’re back from their four-game road trip around Lake Ontario, which included a pair of extra time wins in Rochester, bookended by losses in Toronto and Syracuse.

The team now has a 10-day break without games after this weekend’s contests against the Laval Rocket were postponed and rescheduled by the American Hockey League, with the plan to use the time to reset, recharge and prepare for a busy final three months of the regular season.

This week in “Troy Talks”, Head Coach Troy Mann recaps the road trip, discusses the strange mid-season stoppage and how to make the most of the time away from the rink.

You weren’t able to hit your goal of earning six-of-eight points on the four-game road trip, but did pick up a pair of wins. How would you characterize your team’s performance over that stretch?

“I think that if you look at the bigger picture of a four-game road trip most coaches would be happy with a 2-2 split. Our goal was to go 3-1, trying to get above .500 going into the 10-day break and obviously we didn’t do that, so that’s disappointing. And the way we lost the game against Syracuse on Monday afternoon was, quite frankly, not a lot of fun. Any time you’re in a game and know there are points available with 5:00 left, you’d like to get it to overtime, especially on the road, so to be only 16.8 seconds away from that made it pretty tough on us but there’s not really much you can do. We did have four-of-five players who were on the ice that are prospects, so when you start breaking it down that’s a learning experience for them as well and they’ll be better for it when we get back to playing more games.”


Included in that split were a lot of strong individual performances as well. Who stood out for you>

“I think Egor Sokolov has really turned a corner. He obviously has had some difficulties putting pucks in the net for a stretch of games after he came back from Ottawa, and I thought his game was really good. I thought the Mark Kastelic, Cole Reinhardt, Parker Kelly line was really good when we put them together. Maybe not so much in Syracuse, but I thought Reinhardt had one of his best stretches of hockey of the season and found the net, which gives us some more depth scoring. I thought the defensive pairing of Jonathan Aspirot and Max Guenette was excellent. With Aspirot coming back from a significant injury and missing time with COVID, I thought that pair stood out and Aspirot especially, with the amount he hasn’t played this season had a real nice run. I thought Michael Del Zotto, on the offensive side of things, is helping us on the power play and breaking the puck out. Mads Sogaard was very strong in the net as well, so there were a lot of real good performances over the four-game stretch.”

Filip Gustavsson, Logan Shaw and Mark Kastelic were all called up to Ottawa’s taxi squad recently. Is this just a chance for the big club to take advantage of having some extra bodies, while the AHL team is on its break?

“I think so. Ottawa is leaving for a four-game road trip and with the taxi squad available and us not playing, it makes sense for them to take 15 forwards and eight defence. Shawzy has been there before and Gus as well, but it’s a new experience for Kastelic, which is almost more of a reward than anything else. That doesn’t mean he won’t see any games if there’s an injury or two, and we know how quickly those things can change, but it’s very good experience for him to get up there and be part of that trip. I know (Ottawa Head Coach) DJ Smith felt it was important to have the extra bodies on that trip, but we’re hoping by the time Tuesday rolls around and we get back to getting ready for the Marlies, that health-wise they’re good and we get some guys back.”

This is a bit of a non-traditional break in the schedule at this time of year. We’re around the all star break, but there won’t officially be one this season due to all of the postponements. How do you make the most out of 10 days i between games in the middle of the season?

“Our thought was, when we found out there would be no all star break and would most likely have to reschedule the Lehigh Valley game during that time, that we’d come in and do some skill today, then a full work day tomorrow with some small area games and conditioning, then give the guys four days off. That would still give us three days of practice to prepare for the Marlies games, guys will come back and it will be business as usual. But with the fact that there’s no all star break and we’re playing right through February, it’s a good chance for some guys to get away, because everyone was in isolation over Christmas and couldn’t go home, then we played over new years. Cole Reinhardt, for example, is going to fly out west to Calgary and see his family, and some other guys will also take advantage of the break and we’ll get back to work on Tuesday.”

What are the keys to refocusing while you’re off? Are you hoping the guys completely detach from the game as much as possible for a few days and reset?

“Mentally you have to reset, especially if you’re going to play 41 games from January 28th to April 24th, with the potential for more games to be rescheduled near the end of the season if needed. There’s a lot of hockey to be played, I think we’re playing three times a week from February 1st onwards and from a playoff perspective, our post season is pretty much going to have to start here on January 28th against Toronto. Our record is not like that of Utica, who might have some leeway of not playing their best hockey and be able to drop a game here-or-there, because they’re in first place. For us, it’s going to be a battle right to the end and you can see how tight the standings are from second place right down to seventh, so we’ll have to put some streaks together. But, the greatest thing about divisional matchups in your scheduling is if you win five in a row you could be in second place pretty quickly. That’ll be the message come next Tuesday, but in the meantime, we’ll work on skills, have a good work day tomorrow and then tell the guys to get away mentally and enjoy their break.”

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