Coach gives assessment of team as Rage host open house

It was a chance for season ticket holders to come pick up their tickets – and for others to purchase those tickets – while chatting with players, getting a tour of the facility and the team’s dressing room, and maybe picking up a jersey or a cowbell.

Scott Robinson, head coach and general manager for the Rage, also took the opportunity to speak about the outlook for the team heading into their second season in the North American Hockey League. The Rage just came off a win against the Grande Prairie Storm of the Alberta Junior Hockey League in their first exhibition game of the season, and while it is still early, Robinson said there were many positives coming out of that game.

“I like how some of the players have progressed in understanding how to play, and I think we saw a few guys who learned things last year that they’ve kept in their game, and that’s always encouraging,” he said.

He added it is obvious many of the players took the coaching staff’s message to train hard during the off-season to heart.

“They are in much better shape, and that was obvious from day one of training camp. They’re physically stronger, some heavier, some faster, but by and large they’ve done a great job in training and bettering themselves.”

Right now the team has about 30 players in camp, said Robinson, including about 17 returning players, but by Oct. 1 they will have to shorten that roster down to about 23 players.

The coach said one of the opportunities to further assess his roster will be at the NAHL Showcase Tournament in Blaine, Minnesota. from Sept. 14 to 17. The team will play four games in four days against the Corpus Christi Ice Rays, Coulee Region Chill, Kalamazoo Jr. K Wings, and Michigan Warriors, respectively, which Robinson said is odd because they won’t play those teams again in the regular season.

“It’s kind of strange playing a team you will only play once in a year and kicking off your season with that, but it’s good because it’s tremendous exposure for our players,” adding he would highly recommend anybody who has the time to come check it out.

He said the tournament counts towards regular season standings so it will be important to get as many points as possible.

The Rage will then play their next six games on home ice. Robinson said it will be very important to have success at home early in the season if they want to find themselves in the playoff hunt.

 “In our season schedule we have two very long and grueling road trips, so we want to make sure we’re doing good things at home and having a good success rate at home because the road trips are going to be difficult no matter how you slice it,” said the coach.

The first of those road trips is a month-long trip starting on Nov. 18 that includes 12 games, and the other is a 10-game road trip starting in mid-March. Robinson said the logistical side of travelling has become much easier following their first season, so that should make it easier for the players to adjust and get the preparation they need on the road.

The coach added continuing to foster a loyal hometown crowd will be key to the team’s overall success.

“I think in the first half of the season we had spectators and people wanting to learn about our product and our team, and in the second half they all turned into fans, and there is a big difference there. We now have a cowbell section, and all sorts of groups who love to come to the games, and that is something we want to build on.”

The Rage renew their rivalry with their opponents from just across the border, the Grande Prairie Storm, tonight at the EnCana Events Centre at 7 p.m. Tickets are $11 each and can be purchased Tickets for those exhibition games are only $11 and can be purchased at the Tiger Box Office Plus or Co-op High Performance Ticket Outlet, or by going online to www.dawsoncreekeventscentre.com or www.dawsonco-optickets.com.

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