Jon Rogger admits a certain level of surprise to find his Philadelphia Revolution team still unbeaten at a time when every other Eastern Hockey League team has lost at least three times.
But Rogger has a different reaction to Bryce Witman (Reading, Pa.) ranking first in EHL goals per game.
“With his early success, he’s one player I’m not surprised by at all,” Rogger said.
During the Revolution’s 13-0 start, Witman has 15 goals and 12 assists to rank second in the league in total goals and points per game while ranking third in total points.
“He goes out there game in and game out, knowing that if he doesn’t put up points, he’s disappointed in himself,” Rogger said. “It doesn’t have to come from me.”
Rogger said there are reasons Witman is able to keep up that production.
“He does everything well,” the coach said. “He’s got a good shot. He’s got a nose for the net. He’s just a smart hockey player that plays a 200-foot game.
“He doesn’t cheat in practice, he doesn’t cheat in games, and I think that’s a big reason why he’s having this success.”
Witman played with the Central Penn Panthers of the Metropolitan Junior Hockey League in 2014-15 before moving east to play for the Revolution. He is now in his third season with the team after scoring more than a point per game last season when the Revolution posted a franchise record 31 wins.
Linemate and fellow assistant captain Austin Morgan is fifth in the league in points with 21, while Jake Russo is tied for seventh with 18.
“Morgan and Russo have been with me all season and it’s been working out great really playing well together,” Witman said. “Last season, I played a little bit with Morgan while Alex Doyle was out with an injury and I loved it then and I love it now.
“I couldn’t ask for better linemates.”
The Revolution return seven regulars and two who spent some time on the roster from a team that was successful in the regular season, but faced playoff disappointment, creating a group hungry for a second chance.
The New Jersey Rockets finished below Philadelphia in the standings but knocked the Revolution out in a two-game sweep to open the postseason.
“It was kind of our goal for this year’s staff to do what we can to beat that record from a year ago,” Rogger said. “I think that our motivation for the guys returning, and for the staff, is that we had a great year last year, but then it all went for nothing when we got knocked out in the first round by New Jersey.
“That was a team that I believe we were 4-1 against in the regular season. Come playoff time, it’s another year and things get ramped up and we don’t want to make that same mistake this year.”
Rogger has a deep roster and tries to get everyone involved, following an approach he learned from current Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper when he assisted Cooper with the Clark Cup champion Green Bay Gamblers in the United States Hockey League nine years ago. Rogger has changed the lineup all but one game, has “everybody contributing” during the 13-0 start and plans to continue doing so.
“I remind the guys, ‘Don’t get complacent,’” he said. “’Don’t think it’s always going to be this good. We’re going to have our ups and downs."
But there have been nothing but ups so far.
“We’re all working hard, but the coaches know when to tell us to focus up and when to let us relax,” Witman said. “It takes great leadership to form a great team and Coach Rogger and Coach [Joe] Matiskiel have been doing a great job keeping us together.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.