Depth, not star power, lifts Bishop Canevin to top of Class AA
The preseason tournaments can be a barometer for coaches to measure how well their teams will perform during the regular season.
Bishop Canevin's 0-3 showing in the St. Margaret Foundation Fall Face-Off Hockey Tournament left head coach Kevin Zielmanski a bit concerned, but the Crusaders (6-1-2 through December) turned it up a notch once the regular season started.
Their first loss didn't come until nine games into the season, when they lost to Moon, 5-3, on Dec. 21.The team's first-half schedule was heavier than usual.
“When you're playing regularly, you've got some momentum,” Zielmanski said. “Maybe that's what catapulted us to a good start.”
Bishop Canevin defeated Pine-Richland in its first regular-season game and had continued success afterward.
Both teams entered the month of January with 14 points and in a tie for first place in PIHL Class AA.
“We're getting timely goals and timely saves,” Zielmanski said.
Bishop Canevin has a full roster. It's the team as a whole that's making an impact, more so than the individual players.
“We're pretty deep. We don't really have one particular guy like some of the other teams,” Zielmanski said.
“Our depth is better than some of the other teams.”
Zielmanski can play three lines that will produce for him. That a nice luxury to have, because he can control the play to a certain degree.
But when the Crusaders need to score a late goal, he doesn't have that pure goal-scorer to turn to.
“Sometimes you've just got to pay attention to who's having a good game,” Zielmanski said.
“All that means is the team needs to work more as a team and not rely on one player,” goaltender Nikita Meskin said.
More of the responsibility has shifted to the other end of the ice, too.
“I think there's more pressure on the defense and goaltender because we've got to be there for our team now and step up a bit more,” junior defenseman Brennen Adams said.
The defensemen have been solid in front of Meskin, who also has played well.
“My defense is outstanding. If there's a loose puck, they'll get it,” Meskin said. “I'm glad to have them. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be able to save as many pucks as I do.”
The players have learned how to adapt to individual game situations.
“Sometimes you have to play more defense, sometimes you have to play more offense,” Meskin said.”It makes us all stronger because we know both styles and working together at practice, it makes us an all-around team,” Adams said.
It could make them dangerous in the playoffs, too, but the postseason is further out than the team is thinking right now.
“Our team works by taking one game at a time. We tend not to focus on future goals, we tend to focus on each period,” Meskin said.
“Our biggest picture is winning the period.”
Bishop Canevin still has little things to work on, such as making better passes, better plays and making the opponent work hard for every goal.
“I'm really going to try to be positive with them but focus on the fact that if we can reduce our mistakes, with the way Nikita has been playing, we should be in pretty good shape I hope,” Zielmanski said.
Amanda Iannuzzi is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.