Having switched up their coaching staff, the Bracebridge Phantoms are looking to put a cap on their rough play going forward.
The Bracebridge Phantoms had a punch out with LeFrey during the game at the Bracebridge Memorial Arena on Saturday Oct. 20. The fiesty Phantoms won 6-1. (Photo by Bev McMullen)
After six wins and four losses to date, the Phantoms announced last week that they have parted ways with head coach Anthony Gambacorta and assistant coach Nico Figliano. Their replacements are head coach Hans King and assistant coach Frankie Demasie, both of whom bring professional coaching experience from Europe and North America.
“First on the agenda is to cut our penalty minutes down and our goals against. I think that will go hand in hand,” said Phantoms owner Tim Dickieson. “When you’re not in the penalty box, the other team isn’t on a power play and therefore our goals against should go down.”
Though Dickieson praised Gambacorta and Figliano for their efforts, he said the team needed to move in a “different direction,” and cited a need to get more control over the players’ aggression on the ice.
“They were great young guys. They definitely put their heart and soul into things, but unfortunately in hockey, like they say, you can’t fire a team, and it’s usually the coaching staff that takes the brunt of everything,” he said. “I got a lot of respect for them and they’re good fellas.”
Although Figliano and Gambacorta had tried to corral their players’ aggressiveness on the ice, the Phantoms have garnered a reputation for rough play in their first 10 games. When Gambacorta and Figliano left, the 24-player team had piled up a combined total of 364 minutes in penalties.
To date, three players most likely to spend time in the penalty box are enforcer Jake Lobato with 60 penalty minutes, aggressive defenceman Michal Spacek with 59 penalty minutes, and defenceman Kyle Cecchetto with 48 penalty minutes.
Though he said the Phantoms have strong talent in goaltending, scoring and defence, Dickieson said he’s found that the team can endanger commanding leads when they are forced to play short-handed at decisive moments.
One example came in a mid-September game against the Temiscaming Titans, where the Phantoms had led 6-1 at the end of the first period. But by the last minute of the third period, the Titans had caught up 7-7, with the Phantoms having spent most of the previous 20 minutes in and out of the penalty box. It was only in overtime that the Phantoms managed to bounce back and score the decisive point.
Dickieson said being forced to play short-handed can place a strain on other players, creating a snowball effect for wracking up penalties.
“There’s a lot of factors involved, like tired players that might get too much ice time instead of playing a whole team. When you have fresh legs you don’t take silly penalties,” said Dickieson. “When you’re tired, you hook, you hold, you grab, you haul a player down, you slash. And those are the types of penalties that I was seeing.”