Joakim Falt had a plan as he got to know the personnel on his new team, the Steamboat Wranglers of the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League.
“I was trying to put two veterans with a rookie,” Falt said. “But, our rookies are so good they can take care of business themselves.”
What Falt found out he had is a roster full of scoring options, capable of being used in many different combinations. It is a point that has been proven as Steamboat has adjusted to injuries throughout the current 11-game winning streak that has the Wranglers on top of the league at 15-4.
The Wranglers have arrived at this point with the type of scoring balance about which most teams could only dream.
Quinny Baker has nine goals, Andrew DeMorat, Donny Nordstrom and Jarrett Sturtz have eight, five teammates have scored six and three more have five to put a dozen players within four goals of the team lead.
The point totals are similar.
Cory Kohut leads with 18, thanks to a team-high 12 assists. DeMorat has 17, Nordstrom 16 and eight more teammates join them in double figures in points.
Those numbers show an incredible amount of depth and balance that have been a major reason for the league-leading record. But they are not the only traits with which Falt is pleased so far this season.
“We’re outworking every team we play,” he said. “That’s how we practice, too.
“We practice really, really hard four days a week. The guys are used to working hard and it really shows in the games.”
Hard work and resilience have produced a winning combination.
“A lot of games, we’ve been behind, but it seems like we’re always finding a way to win games in the end,” Falt said.
Steamboat will be returning from a 20-day layoff from games when it hosts the Colorado Thunderbirds Friday and Saturday. Following that series, they’ll have a shorter break of 13 days for the holidays, and then will resume with one more series of 2017 on Dec. 29-30.
When the Wranglers last played, they came from behind in both wins over the Colorado Rampage.
“We had a lot of veterans injured and not in the lineup, but we found a way to come back and win both games,” said Falt, a native of Sweden who has been involved with USA Hockey as a coach and evaluator at developments camps throughout much of his coaching career.
Nico Hemming and Grant Longtin scored second-period goals while Blue Hildebrand made 27 saves in a 2-1 win in the series opener against the Rampage.
The Rampage took a 2-0 lead more than halfway through the second game, but Nevada White started and ended a five-goal streak to a 5-2 win.
Steamboat finds itself in first place despite not have a single player ranked among the top seven scorers in the five-team league.
Cole Kohut leads the league in goalie wins with 11 and is first in goals against average among those seeing regular playing time at 2.45.
Even with the winning streak, the Wranglers are just four points clear of the Pikes Peak Miners for the lead in the three-year-old league.
“I didn’t know a single thing about the league when I came over,” said Falt, who came to Steamboat from San Diego after having also coached previously throughout the northwest. “The league is way better than what people say.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc