NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, TX – We sat down with Brahmas Head Coach Al Rooney this week to gather his thoughts on his team now that they’ve locked up a spot in the NA3HL Playoffs.
Q: To start, now that you’ve clinched a playoff spot, what’s the mindset of the team?
Rooney: Not to rest on our laurel’s, really. We have to keep moving forward. We’re sitting in first place now and have to secure home ice advantage in the playoffs. It’s going to be a battle between us, Point Mallard and Atlanta so we want to make sure that come playoff time we are in the friendly confides of NYTEX.
Q: How do you keep the boys motivated now that you’ve already got a playoff spot wrapped up but there’s two whole months left in the regular season?
Rooney: That’s easy. This is a development league so we’re still trying to play our very best as both a team and individuals to potentially look at some call-ups for the remainder of the regular season. As well, Atlanta and Point Mallard are going to be on our heels trying to catch us for first place but we want to win the regular season South Division crown. So those two things right there make it really easy for both the guys and myself to stay hungry.
Q: What do you feel is the most successful part of this team?
Rooney: I think probably the fact that we’re well rounded. We’re among the lead leaders in goals for and second in the league in goals against. We’ve won some close games and we’ve won some blowout games. We can play a lot of different ways and we’ve succeeded in most of those ways.
So I think the most successful part for us is that we’ve found ways to grow and win and as a team. We’ve never really relied on one person. Each week there seems to be a different guy or a different line that steps up.
Q: What’s one aspect of the team that you feel does really well but perhaps doesn’t get the recognition it deserves?
Rooney: Probably our penalty kill. I think it’s currently sitting in fourth [in the league]. We’re a well disciplined team. We have the fewest penalty minutes in the league so we don’t have to [kill penalties] often but when we do, we have guys who are unheralded as far as the score sheet goes.
You’ve got a guys like Garrett Culps, Kyle Torgerson, Chase Deacon, and Dakota Davis (who we unfortunately just lost to injury) but those are guys that their names don’t particularly jump out at you as far as the box score goes on a daily basis or a regular weekend but their regulars on our PK and they’re a big reason why we are where we are not only in the standings but as far as being atop the league in penalty kill.
Q: What’s something you would like to see the team work on before playoff time?
Rooney: [Laughs] Ironically that goes right to the other side of special teams and that’s our power play. We’re in the top ten or usually top five of just about every other statistical category in our power play and with the amount of talent we have on this roster I’d like to see it be a little bit more consistent. I think we’re always bouncing between 8th and 12th or somewhere in that range and there’s no reason why we can’t be higher or more successful on a regular basis.
With the talent we can put out there on our power play unit, we just don’t seem to have that sense of urgency to make something happen or get something done. We play a pretty well structured game on even strength as well as the PK and then power play, I don’t know what it is. We’re still looking for answers or searching for something that I look each week for but it’s almost as if the guys think it’s going to kind of take care of itself and it’ not. We have to apply the same work ethic that we apply to our penalty kill and use it to our advantage.
Q: In your eyes, what’s different about this year’s team as opposed to last year?
Rooney: I think the confidence and comradery clicked way sooner this year than it did last year. It’s not a slight on last year’s team, I just think this year’s team has cobbled together in a different way.
I got hired later in the offseason [last year] so it was a later start bringing the team together, whereas this year leading into the season there was a lot more structure and I had a much clearer vision and path to bring players in. So I think we clicked together a lot sooner and I think this year’s team is a lot deeper than last year, which allowed us to have some early success. We’ve built on that and we haven’t looked back. Last year we struggled out of the gate and then steamrolled as the season wore on.