BY CLAIRE CUDAHY
As the English River Miners prepare to kick off the playoffs tonight with a home game in Ear Falls against the Minnesota Iron Rangers, The Northern Sun News caught up with Head Coach and General Manager Derek Sweet-Coulter to reflect on the season and discuss what it will take for the Miners to go all the way this year.
How do you feel about the team’s performance this season?
We believe the team worked very hard this season on and off the ice, and we are extremely proud of this group of young men. Obviously we would have liked to win more games, but we competed hard and never gave up, and when the wins don’t come regularly the competition level can suffer, but with this group I don’t believe that was the case. They were always prepared and ready to go to work each night. Best described, this team has been resilient when facing adversity all season long, and we look forward to that continuing through the playoffs.
Were there certain areas you specifically focused on improving?
We had a tough time in close games this season falling short by two or less goals on 22 different occasions. A positive was that we were able to improve on last year’s 295 goals against season. [As of March 16], we are currently at 212 goals against with three [regular season] games remaining. Where we struggled was scoring goals, and that’s something we will need to address as a staff this summer. Overall we are happy with the development, but realize we still have a long way to go in developing these young men for next season. The work never stops; it’s an every day grind trying to get better and that’s what we look forward to every day! We love the grind, but more importantly we enjoy working hard together.
What were you most proud of this season?
As an organization we were most proud of our boys and the work they put in with the community. All of these boys have turned into humble young men who learned that life is about caring about others before yourself and that it’s good to give, which is what our program is all about. There wasn’t one time this season where any of our players said no to the community. They were upstanding citizens and we are very thankful for all their hard work.
What challenges did you face in your first season as head coach with the Miners?
Every day is a challenge but that’s what makes it fun. The hard is what makes it great. As a rookie you don’t know what it’s all about and the work required till you’re right in the thick of it. I loved all the challenges this season, and I appreciate the organization that blessed me with this opportunity to learn and develop as a person and coach. I was treated first class all season, and I am very proud to be a part of the English River Miners.
What do the Miners need to do to go all the way in the playoffs?
Solid goaltending and timely scoring. Staying disciplined to our team structure and trust in each other. Courage and the will to win is a special thing at playoff time, and I believe we have that.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you to the staff, fans, sponsors, and volunteers who supported this team this season. Without you we wouldn’t have a community team, and we appreciate all of you! We hope to see everyone on March 23 at 7 p.m. in Ear Falls for Game 1 of the SIJHL playoffs! Thank you to both the Ear Falls and Red Lake communities for making myself and our boys feel right at home this season!
The English River Miners play the Minnesota Iron Rangers in a best of five, first round matchup. All games start at 7 p.m.
March 23 – in Ear Falls
March 25 – in Minnesota
March 26 – in Minnesota
March 28 – in Red Lake
March 30 – in Minnesota