23 in 23 Series: Northeast Generals
September 5, 2017
The 23 in 23 series features a look at all 23 teams in the NAHL for the 2017-18 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 23 in 23 looks into each NAHL team and will include video interviews with 23 coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.
Head Coach: Joe Lovell (2nd Year)
2016-17 record: 4-53-3, 11 pts. (5th in the East Division)
2016-17 leading scorer: Colin Bilek (40 points)
2017 playoffs: Did not qualify
2017-18 Division: East
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 13th vs. Johnstown Tomahawks
Home opener: Wednesday, September 13th vs. Johnstown Tomahawks
To say last season was a learning experience for the expansion Northeast Generals would be an understatement. The season began with a lot of promise and expectations of having a team that would compete night in and night out in the East Division. However, the Generals faced some major challenges as the season opened, which included not having a permanent home, as their new arena would not be completed until three months into the season.
“I think not having a permanent place to call home definitely hurt us in the beginning of the season,” said Generals General Manager Bryan Erikson. “We were a new team, with new players, in a new area, and it was tough because every home game was in a different location. It definitely affected everyone and it was tough to develop any consistency.”
By the time December hit, things were looking pretty bleak for the Generals, who had yet to post a win. On December 29th, the team announced a coaching change as Erikson stepped down from his post on the bench, but continued on as General Manager. The team inserted Joe and Tim Lovell into the mix and saw immediate dividends. Just over a week later, the Generals would pick up their first win and finish with a total of four for the 2016-17 season.
“I think one of the silver linings from last season was that we were able to bring in some young players during the second half of the season who made an impact and who we identified as a part of our future moving forward for this season,” said Erikson. “The guys coming back all are going to have some valuable experience playing in the NAHL and know what to expect and understand the challenges of playing in the league. But, we are definitely excited because we feel they are high-end talent guys.”
Although every team enters the season wanting to hoist the Robertson Cup, the other piece of the successful NAHL puzzle is NCAA commitments. The Generals were able to have a very successful season when it came to NCAA commitments in 2016-17, which included 14 NCAA commitments. Highlighting that group was forward Kohei Sato, who began the season playing for the North Iowa Bulls in the NA3HL, but found himself playing for the Generals early in the season and then was able to secure an NCAA Division I commitment to the University of New Hampshire after playing in the 2017 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament.
“I think it is all about building relationships with these NCAA coaches and we have managed to do a good job here out East on developing those relationships,” said Erikson. “Having a higher quality player this season should lead us to more Division I commitments and it is something we focused on this summer as we were building a team.”
For the 2017-18 season, Erikson is realistic about the team’s goals and expectations. “I think our first goal is to make the playoffs. But, in order to do that, we have to be a hard team to play against. I think last year’s win total is deceiving because we were in a lot of games and just didn’t have that consistency or drive to close out games. We lost half our games by two goals or less, so that tells us we were close, but had to focus on getting players that can compete for 60+ minutes and close games out and battle until the end.”
Erikson said that beyond the high-end, younger talent for this season that played during the second half of last year, he was also looking for players with Tier II or NAHL experience. “I think finding the right type of player was important because you want chemistry in the lockerroom and it was important that we found guys with a winning pedigree. They understand how to win, they want to win, and understand the grind and mission of junior hockey. We feel that combining that type of player with the younger guys we have coming back with NAHL experience should help us be much improved for this season.”
Next up in the 23 in 23 series: Odessa Jackalopes