Published: March 15, 2017
BY JENNIFER PARSONS
With three games left in regular season play, English River Miners Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter says the team is focused on adding points to the win column to secure a comfortable playoff spot for later this month.
“To be able to stay in the top three we have to win these last three games to make sure that happens,” Sweet-Coulter told the Northern Sun News this week. “We don’t want to rely on anyone else to help us out and we control our own destiny now.”
Incremental weather on Mar. 7 forced the cancellation of the English River Miners last home game against the Dryden Ice Dogs, forcing the team on an unexpected seven day break. The game was rescheduled for Mar. 14 before the team heads south for contests against the Minnesota Iron Rangers and the Thunder Bay North Stars.
The Miners currently sit third in the Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJH) rankings with 14 wins out of their last 17 games.
Sweet-Coulter says ending the season in third place would give the players a 10-12 day break before having to jump into playoff action.
“Last year we went into the playoffs with a tough schedule down the stretch in March. When we went into the playoffs we played in the fourth place vs five and we were able to win that series but after that you could really tell we were tired and wore out.”
This is the coach’s second year with the local hockey club and he says it has been encouraging watching the team develop over its four year history. With a program run on the characteristics of humility, integrity and courage it has been important to have players that understand and embody the principles.
“With anything in life it takes time to change the culture…I would say the foundation and the culture remains the same [from last year] but that we have been able to recruit some players that were maybe more skilled and determined. The biggest change has been to recruit people that understand the program. Sometimes a team comes together and it doesn’t have to be 20 of the best hockey players, it just has to be 20 guys that work together well. We were able to find that chemistry this year.”
Sweet-Coulter gives a nod to 2016 roster addition goaltender Michael Lenko as the heart of the team.
“He has given our team confidence. They believe every night they have a chance to win. When you are confident in your goaltender it changes your whole team. I believe you build a team from your goaltender out.”
Looking back on a season which has seen both long stretches of wins and losses, the coach says the highlight for the local hockey club happened at the beginning of February when the team surpassed its record of 20 wins in a season.
“Setting a franchise record for wins was a big one for everyone. Every win since then has been just adding on and like the cherry on the top.”