GLENS FALLS — In the grand scheme of things, line combinations change more than they stay the same, so the early season continuity the Adirondack Thunder had was a delightful change of pace.
Currently, however, with the Thunder having won just four of their last 10 games and been held to one goal in five of those games, coach Alex Loh has been switching things around more.
“We were winning, we were scoring, so you don’t change much when that’s going on,” forward and alternate captain Peter MacArthur said. “Right now we’re a little inconsistent winning and scoring, so we’re trying to find a nice mix where everyone clicks as a whole, not just two or three guys.
MacArthur noted that Conor Riley and Mike Szmatula have been really hot, along with Matt Salhany. Riley leads the team in goals with 12, while Szmatula is tied for third in points.
“And that’s awesome, and now the rest of us need to figure out consistency in our game so that the game is just easier for us,” MacArthur said.
As far as forward lines, Loh said he doesn’t look at goals as much as scoring chances, which he called a better measure.
“A lot of times you can’t control the end result of a puck going into the net,” Loh said. “Obviously, you can hit the goalie in the chest, but if he makes a great save, then there’s nothing you can do. If a line’s generating scoring chances, then you’re more apt to leave it together.”
Defensively, you have to make sure a line has cohesiveness.
“It’s always different,” defenseman Kevin Lough said. “It also depends how long you’ve been playing with somebody. Like, I’ve been playing with Matias Cleland, Jake Linhart and now with Mike Sdao. Obviously, Mike Sdao’s a bit more defensive and everything, but they’re little things you pick up on pretty quickly.”
Lough and MacArthur agreed that communication is paramount.
“That’s a part of every situation on the ice,” MacArthur said. “I literally played with guys who got contracts to the NHL because they were so loud on the ice.”
It doesn’t even need to be about volume, he added.
“That can be just getting together with your linemates right before the game and saying, ‘Hey, these are the cues I like to use,’ just so you kind of understand if he says up or down I know what he’s talking about,” MacArthur said.
Loh also noted he has to try to accentuate players’ strengths and the roles they’re good at on the lines.
“Some guys are better at going and getting pucks, some guys are better shooters or playmakers, so you need... a mix of all three,” Loh said. “You can’t have a line of guys that just aren’t going to get the puck, so you’ve got to mix and match.”