Chemistry and communication key for 2015 North Stars
Wednesday, March 18, 2015 - Submitted by Tina Girdler
The Newcastle North Stars aren’t satisfied with anything less than success after missing their first post-season in club history. As the most successful club AIHL history with four Goodall Cups, there is a sense of expectation that the club has developed over such a long period of sustained success.
With off-season changes seeing former Sydney Ice Dogs head coach Andrew Petrie join the Newcastle North Stars behind the bench, with the help of former North Stars coach and current GM Garry Doré helping to formulate plans, the club hopes to ensure the season kicks off with a new dynamic.
“I think that we’ll be an exciting team to watch,” Petrie said. “That’s going to be very high on my agenda. Not just to win games but to do it in an exciting fashion; something that makes fans want to come back and see us again. It’s the fastest sport in the world and that’s how I like to see it played. I don’t like a lot of standing around so lots of emotion and excitement from that level.”
Teams have more of an appetite for roster changeover in the off-season and 2014 saw the Newcastle North Stars field a rookie line up with 13 of 26 players in their first year for the AIHL. With more experience under their belt, coach Petrie believes that with the right players all genuinely focused on being their best, the team will succeed.
“One of the biggest challenges of any coach in an organisation is to bring them [the players] together,” Petrie said. “I try and avoid clichés as much as possible but you really do have to get everyone on the same page quickly and its only a 28-game season so you want everybody to understand what their role is in the team and to understand where the team is trying to get to and how they can help their team achieve that.”
2014 was an anomaly for the North Stars. One of only two teams to finish in the negative in the plus minus category as well as second last in goals scored, it was the first time since 2002 - the club’s first season and the season before the top four contested finals - that club finished with a minus goal differential (in 2002, the North Stars still finished in the top four of the six team competition). This is a huge disconnect from the once powerful team that set an AIHL record for most goals scored in a game by one team and also for the greatest winning margin in a game when they defeated the Canberra Knights 21-2 in 2006.
Not solely reliant on import scoring, coach Petrie believes Newcastle have the homegrown talent to contribute on the board this season and will play a prominent role in the team.
“Everyone needs to know what we’re trying to achieve when they’re out on the ice,” Petrie said. “You can’t have five guys on the ice with individual ideas on what needs to happen at any given point in time. You’re out there as a unit and that unit has to work together to achieve goals but as far as is the talent there? Absolutely. We’re going to have a hell of a roster this year and I’ve already heard from a number of people involved in the league that that’s being recognised.”
Former Sydney Ice Dogs captain Robert Malloy and Shane Southwood were an off-season steal for the North Stars but with AIHL veterans Dayne Davis and John Kennedy soon to become naturalised citizens, this could allow the North Stars a mid-season import acquisition.
With team chemistry and attitude at the forefront with signings, Newcastle believe they’ve found the combination of high level hockey talent and attitude with the signing of Luke Moffatt, Jan Safar and Geordie Wudrick.
“We’ve brought in imports first and foremost with the right attitude; guys that are coming here to play hockey, to contribute to the team and to help develop themselves as better players themselves,” Petrie said. “Principally though I’ve said often I’d rather have a guy that brings me 40 points and brings a fantastic attitude then a guy who can get me 70 points and is a bit of a thorn in the team’s side. It’s all about team for me. It’s all about having everyone pulling in the same direction and that’s what we’re going to look to achieve this season.”
An undercurrent of chemistry continues to mould the pre-season marketplace for the North Stars, but the message remains clear from coach Petrie that the best formula for improving your team is through good, old-fashioned communication.