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They won’t know their opponent in the Kelly Cup final until tonight, but Newfoundland coaches have already done plenty of homework
It would be the rare hockey fan in these parts who knows anything about Shane Berschbasch or Adam Pleskach.
That will soon change, at least regarding one of those two, but in the meantime, John Snowden can tell you all you might want to know about either hockey player.
Berschbasch and Pleskasch were the regular-season scoring leaders for, respectively, the Toledo Walleye and Tulsa Oliers, who meet tonight in Oklahoma in the seventh and deciding game of the ECHL’s Western Conference final. The winner will advance to meet the Snowden-coached Newfoundland Growlers in the Kelly Cup championship series beginning Saturday night at Mile One Centre in St. John’s.
But while that will give the Growlers faithful their first glimpse of their team’s opposition in the final, the Newfoundland coaching staff already has a pretty good read on the soon-to-arrive visitors, whoever they turn out to be.
“Nights, mornings, whenever we can, we’ve been watching their games,” said Snowden on Tuesday after his team’s first practice since vanquishing the Florida Everblades Saturday night at Mile One to take the Eastern Conference title.
“Darryl (assistant coach Darryl Williams) takes one team, I take the other and we break it down. We’re preparing as best we can, just like we’ve done all season. I can tell you this much, those are two very good hockey teams.”
Nevertheless, the Oilers and Walleye can still be considered unknown quantities to the Growlers, who didn’t face either team during the regular season. Pro scouts from the parent Toronto Maple Leafs have checked out Toledo and Tulsa and are passing on info, and Snowden says he’s talked to a few people he knows who are more familiar with the Growlers’ potential opponents. But he relies mostly on his own eyes and those of his assistants, which means those hours of video review, at least until he gets a first-hand view Saturday night.
“I like to know it myself, see it myself,” said Snowden. “If we can get input from others, that’s great, but our staff has been doing it one way throughout the playoffs. We trust each other and it’s worked so far, so I wouldn’t want to change it very much.
“Anyway, it’s a matter of using that information to develop what we’re going to do, not to be caught up too much on what the other team might do, whichever team that is..”
So far, the game plans developed by the Growlers have worked out well, as the team has gone 12-5 in the first three rounds of the playoffs, including dispatching the Everblades, owners of the league’s second-best regular-season record, in just five games.
But Snowden knows that a plan, no matter how well thought out, is just an idea. It’s successful execution relies on the players and so far, the Growlers have delivered.
“They’ve actually elevated their play as we’ve gone along,” said Snowden. “These have been some really tough series and it’s always tougher as you go along, but we’ve continued to find a way to get better, to remain competitive.
“That’s not easy. This time of year, when you’ve just finished playing game whatever it was … 90-something I think, I don’t know for sure, I just know it’s been a long season (It’s actually 92, counting exhibition games) … anyway, when you see the players come out like they were in practice today, up-tempo, upbeat, dialed in, that tells you have something special going on.”