GURT'S BLOG: KILGOUR'S SPEECH FUELS VICTORYBlogs | 2/7/2011 4:40:00 PM | John Gurtler
“Hit ya? I’m not gonna hit ya,” said the Duke John Wayne in one of his many on-screen Westerns. “I’m just gonna run ya until you can’t take it any longer and make ya believe.”
I was trying to draw some conclusion from the Bandits’ Thursday night practice at HSBC Arena last week, which was called due to the Snowmageddon that was supposed to hit the region last Tuesday night. Actually, it all worked out for the better. Players had a chance settle down from their loss to the Rock, and it gave General Manager and Head Coach Darris Kilgour time to fester and come up with what I’m sure was a not-too-happy talk to his players.
I don’t know what was said, and shouldn’t. This was a situation that needed to be worked out between coaches and players. Nobody else needs to know what went on behind closed doors.
If you came to the game Friday night, watched it on TV or listened in on the radio, you could sense immediately that the play-making was more intense. Every aspect of the game had detail and, most importantly, the ball was finding net.
There was a wick still burning from Thursday night’s passionate speech by Kilgour.
“It’s not good enough,” Kilgour said when he politely recounted parts of the speech on Saturday’s radio pre-game show. “There’s a lot of guys that put in a lot of sweat and blood over the years to build this organization to what it was two years ago. We sort of let that slip and I just let them know that’s not gonna happen under my watch, at least not without a fight.”
What do you think was the problem?
“I think everybody was squeezing the sticks,” noted Kilgour, who has more passion for this game than anybody I know. “We are letting one shot affect us. We had 55 shots (against Toronto) but after about 20 of them I don’t know if they believed any of them were gonna go in. We have to be mentally stronger on the offense and we just have to believe more. If we can do that I think we’ll do fine.”
And Friday night, the Bandits responded. John Tavares led by example and was the tireless workhorse of the game with two goals and six assists. Mark Steenhuis balanced his responsibilities and picked up a hat trick. Chad Culp showed his former team he is doing quite well, thank you very much, with a 3-2-5 on the stat sheet. And what about sophomore defenseman Chris Corbeil? He notched two goals and one assist to show he was stoked from Thursday’s verbal encounter.
“Yeah, Chris Corbeil ran me through the boards,” said Kilgour, giving me a review of how practice went following the talk. “I know he was ready to go. He gave me a little brush burn on the face.”
In addition to his offensive contributions, Corbeil also led the team in loose balls with a game-high 16 on Friday night.
Brenden Thenhaus continued to show it was a good move to bring him back to the Bandits. A five-point night against Minnesota proves the two years he spent with Boston gave him a chance to show he can play in this league.
“I think it started with Boston the first year, getting a lot of floor time, a lot of chances with the ball,” said the five-year pro from Winnipeg. “Aside from Dan Dawson, everybody (on Boston’s roster) was just coming into the league trying to make a name for themselves, so that really helped me develop my game and get the confidence I need to score goals.”
And you can see that confidence, which is one of the reasons this Bandit team has so much depth, both on offense and defense. Again, Friday night’s 15-12 victory had 13 players figure in the scoring. That means teamwork.
Other categories in the game also contributed to their success.
Loose balls: 88 to 44.
Face-offs: 23 to 8, including 11-of-13 by Brandon Francis (now 61% on the season) and 10-of-15 by Jay Thorimbert (now 55% draw success on the season).
Shots: 53 to 35.
Forced Turnovers: 10 to 3.
And the power play went 2-for-8.
Call them keys to success.
“Just increase of attitude, a little more effort and a lot more heart out there,” said Brett Bucktooth, who had a strong night with three points, five shots and three loose balls. “Just running our systems a little harder and with more passion and energy.”
While Bucktooth has a laser shot and a nice scoring touch, midfield is where it all starts for him.
“I think the best part is transition,” said Bucktooth, who has four goals and four assists on the season. “You’re not going against four or five guys on defense, things are kind of broken and you can get a little creative with the ball, move it back and forth; usually, those are the best scoring opportunities.”
Friday night’s game is a perfect example of just how strong this team can be. While it took a verbal whoopin’ from Kilgour, aka the Duke, they all believe they can play better – and they will.
Saturday’s radio coverage from Philadelphia will be on WWKB 1520 AM. The pre-game show starts at 6:30 p.m. while face-off is set for 7 p.m.