Hockey searching for the right answers
Northampton head hockey coach Brian Ruff remembered a similar scenario last season when his club struggled before the holidays and then responded with a second-half season flurry that resulted in a Lehigh Valley Scholastic Hockey League (LVSHL) Non-Pure division championship.
So, this season with his club again sputtering, Ruff has a point of reference to fall back upon. But the veteran coach realizes he can rely on another transformation down the stretch. Heading into Monday night, the Kids had an overall 1-4-2 mark and sat in sixth-place of the eight-team division.
"Things aren't going well for us," dead panned Ruff about his team's situation. "Last week, we had a 7-7 tie (against Freedom) against a team that didn't have as many skaters as we had. During the season, though, it sometimes has been one player on a team that has really hurt us.
"We can't always blame it on one player or even the goalie. But we have just had too many long nights this year."
Ruff believes his team's degree of chemistry might be a major reason for their early season woes.
"I don't think the kids are jelling well right now," he said. "I can't totally put my finger on it. These kids play together on travel teams. But, for whatever reason, I don't know if they trust each other. It just seems like we're not getting it together as a team. If it falls back on me, so be it. My coaching staff and I will take responsibility for it."
Through the first eight games, Derrick Wruble lead the team with eight goals and five assists for 13 points. Eric Tanczos was the lone other player in double-figure scoring with five goals and seven assists for 12 points.
Goalie Christopher Tanczos had allowed 41 goals for a 5.91 GAA and had a .768 save percentage.
Through it all, Ruff remains determined to be in the hunt for another championship at season's end.
"We went through the same thing last year as we didn't play well until after Christmas," said Ruff. "After that, we won six or seven in-a-row to get back into it. That is certainly a possibility for this year.
"We have the talent here and we have to get them to play together. We know we have some players who will take it upon themselves to fix everything, but that doesn't always work. We need to fix it as a team."
Ruff noted how his players haven't panicked, but they have responded with a sense of urgency. Yet, things didn't get any easier when they tangled with undefeated Parkland Monday night but lost.
"The guys are frustrated more than anything," he said. "There is more frustration than panic around. They know they have to play as a team. Right now, we're behind the right ball and we have been going uphill.
"We did some line changes and that worked for a little bit. But we'll get this fixed and straightened out. We have the ability to make a run toward the playoffs."