Wait almost over for Generals

Katie Brickman
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Good start crucial for host team at Telus

The way the Moose Jaw Generals look at it — they have nothing to lose.

“There are comments around that we are only here because we are the host. We are here and we are going to go play. We have nothing to lose,” stated Ray Wareham, head coach of the Generals. “No one is expecting us to do anything. There have only been three host teams that have gone on to win the thing since its inception. So, we are just going to go play and whatever happens, happens.”

By the time the Generals step on the ice on Monday (7:30 p.m., Mosaic Place), it will be exactly 45 days since they were eliminated from the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League playoffs.

It hasn’t been easy for them to stay focused or motivated on the task at hand while the other five teams were battling elite teams in their regional playdowns. However, with such a delay in action, the team is now healthy.

“It has been a long 45 days, but the one good thing is that we were able to get healthy. But, that is a long time to be off,” said Wareham. “All the little things that we tried to do will hopefully pay off.”

The Generals finished just one point out of third place in the SMAAHL standings. They started off a bit slow at the beginning of the season, but reeled off a 13-game unbeaten streak from November to January. 

The team relies on a tight defensive structure as well as strong puck possession.

“We like to think we are pretty stingy defensively, but we also think that we have some guys that are capable of producing offensively,” said Wareham. “We have guys that can score and if they have their A-game this week, we will be in good shape.”

Last week, the Generals have been practising in Caronport. They have continued to focus on the same thing they have been since being eliminated — themselves.

“We aren’t focusing on individual teams,” said Wareham. “We have been preaching to the kids about the three things that we want to do to — simplicity, work ethic and controlling our emotions.

“If we can do those three things, we will have just as good of a chance as anyone else.”

The excitement and some nerves have finally set in for Donovan Neuls, but he knows if he and his teammates play well, they can have a good week.

“Even though we are the host team, I think we have as good of a shot as anyone else,” said Neuls. “Hopefully everyone can bring it when it counts.”

The Generals coaching staff have seen video of all the other teams that are coming, but haven’t introduced anything to the players. The important factor is being able to run four full lines, six defencemen, good goaltending — and getting some breaks.

“We just really want them to go and soak it all in, enjoy it and have fun. This is all about controlling our emotions — we can’t get too high or too low,” said Wareham.

The first game could tell the tale of the week for the Generals. They are hoping to come out strong to start and set the tone and tempo against the Halifax McDonald’s.

“It is all about getting pucks to the net and keeping pucks deep. That first game, for sure, is important,” said Neuls. “We have to keep it simple, put pucks on net and crash the net. Most of the goals here will be greasy, rebound goals. We just have to stick to the basics and the game plan.”

The opening ceremonies for the tournament will take place prior to the Generals-McDonald’s game on Monday evening.

Follow me on Twitter @katiebrickman.

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