Team Approach Winning Respect
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12-01-2003, 03:10 PM
Join Date: Apr 2002
Originally Posted by
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Team Approach Winning Respect
December 1, 2003
By BRUCE BERLET, Courant Staff Writer
Jim Mill, the AHL vice president of hockey operations, said word has spread from Newfoundland to Utah that the Wolf Pack are playing the best team game in the league.
Wolf Pack general manager Jim Schoenfeld is just four months into his first administrative hockey job, but he isn't arguing much with the perception.
The coach in Schoenfeld has him viewing tapes for a more educated opinion and to get a better feel for the rest of the league. The Wolf Pack had a few glitches the past few weeks, but reached the quarter pole Saturday with a fifth shutout in 20 games (4-0 over Houston), the best record in the team's seven-year history (11-4-4-1) and the league's second-best winning percentage (.675), behind Bridgeport (.750).
Schoenfeld is most pleased the team has met the key requirement of developing players for the Rangers in a winning environment.
"If that is the mandate, I think our coaches and players have pulled it off pretty well so far," said Schoenfeld, who spent 24 years in the NHL as a player, coach and assistant. "We are not at the top of the heap right now, but we're pretty close, so I think [coaches] Ryan [McGill] and Nick [Fotiu] have done a real good job of balancing both acts because it's not so easy to do sometimes."
Goalie Jason LaBarbera registered his third shutout Saturday, improving his record to 8-0-3-1. Forwards Dominic Moore, Paul Healey, Jed Ortmeyer and Richard Scott have played for the Rangers, with the latter two still on Broadway. The loss of Ortmeyer and Scott hurt the Wolf Pack's ability to wear down opponents, but the team has shown it has plenty of contributors and interchangeable parts.
"I like the way the players have bought into what Ryan and Nick are presenting to them and how well they've been able to go on the ice and execute it," Schoenfeld said. "You can't win without both. You need the right plan of attack, but no matter how good that plan is, if the players don't buy into it, it's not going to hold water."
The game plan and players' attentiveness has also been accompanied by a no-quit attitude personified by Ortmeyer, captain Ken Gernander, Jason MacDonald, Chad Wiseman, Garth Murray, John Jakopin and Jayme Filipowicz, who is on a 25-game tryout contract that is likely to be extended.
"They have a dogged determination, and I like that in a player and a team," said Schoenfeld, who shows similar qualities. "More upsetting to me than losing are players who don't push themselves to the max or try to raise their level of excellence.
"I think people should always strive to keep raising the bar. You're going to make mistakes and have your dip, but it's better to have a 3-inch dip when the bar is higher and then push yourself to get back up. I think everybody here wants to play in the NHL, so you can't take time off because you never get it back."
Schoenfeld wouldn't name names, but players such as Healey and another former All-Star, Cory Larose, haven't excelled. Both have been injured, and Larose hopes he escaped his doldrums Saturday with three assists against his former team.
The Wolf Pack's biggest disappointment has been home attendance. The team is averaging 5,124, which is 12th in the 28-team league. Schoenfeld said he appreciates the fans who have showed up. And he realizes the competition for an audience with top-ranked basketball teams at UConn.
"We know it's a tough market with a lot of things tugging at the entertainment dollar, but our walk-ups have steadily increased," Schoenfeld said. "We can only do our part on the ice and in the community, and I'm proud we've raised a lot of money for a lot of people.
"I think UConn is a separate entity from us, so we just have to keep doing our thing. Winning is the cure for a lot of ailments, and it's in our best interest to keep winning."
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