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Men’s hockey hits the ice Oct. 11

As a preamble to the hockey season which begins on Oct. 11, the Fulcrum talked to Réal Paiement to get a sense of how the team is shaping up.

The Fulcrum: What are you expecting from the team this season?

Réal Paiement: We’re expecting to keep on progressing as a program and a team. Two years ago, we made it to the second round and lost in two games in a best two out of three. Last year, the same thing happened in a heated battle against Carleton. We are working to get past that. Passing the second series puts you two wins away from a national championship. So that’s pretty motivating.

Do you expect to compete for a championship?

We expect to be in the running. We were in the run last year for quite a while, with a lot of injuries. But in today’s sports, everybody has injuries. Every team has injuries so you can’t put that in the equation. We are going to have injuries that will slow us down, but should still be  able to compete.

In sports there’s a saying, “if everybody stays healthy…” It applies to every sport but do you think that “if everybody stays healthy” is a myth? 

In the last few years, regardless of the sport, there are multiple players that are not healthy at one point in the season. You can call it a myth now but a few years back, not so much.

Is there a university with a reputation of having a good hockey program? And if you beat it; do you feel extra special about the win?

A win is a win obviously. A good game is a good game regardless if you win or not. But obviously last year we had not beaten McGill in five years and we beat them last year. Beating McGill is always a thrill. So is beating Trois-Rivières, we have not beaten them in a very long time. Beating Carleton is special, not only because of the rivalry, but also because they are a great hockey program. So it’s always good to beat those teams.

As a coach do you prefer close games or blowouts?

As a coach, I try not to focus on the win or the loss during the season. It’s cliché to say, but as a coach and as a team we want to focus on how we play and how we want to play. In the playoffs you don’t care if you played well or not because the margin between a win and a loss is so small. You take each win and you move on.

 How do you want to improve from last season?

We zeroed in on three major areas that we want to improve. One of them is team defence. I am not speaking about the defensive core or our goalie. I am talking about the six men that are on the ice being more committed at playing defence. We had the second best scoring unit last year. We can produce scoring chances. Defensively, we gave up way too many goals even though we had the second last amount of shots against; it’s the quality of the shots that we gave. The second thing we want to focus on is toughness. By toughness I am not speaking about fighting and all that stuff. I am talking about being tough to play against. Every time the other team does something, there’s a Gee-Gee in their face. The last thing we want to improve is the concept of team. It’s not something we want to prove, it’s something we want to remind the players. We want the boys to be more accountable. You make a mistake, we are going to back you up; you’re our teammate but you got to pick it up buddy.

Would you say your team is more of a finesse team or a physical team?

We showed we have skills, ability, and finesse. We need to be tougher on the puck. I know that you can ask so much of a skill player without him losing his offensive abilities. If not, you lose that player and you lose the reason why you recruited him in the first place. Our skill players have to get tougher and our energy players have to get more skillful.

Looking at the depth of the team, do you feel as comfortable putting your fourth line as your first line in crucial situations?

Today, I have no problem putting my fourth line against the top line of the other team either to defend against that first line or take advantage of that line’s defensive weaknesses.

Is there something you would like to tell the fans?

Last year’s crowds increased. It was great to see. We will keep putting on a great show. The atmosphere just gets better and better in the rink. I spoke to guys who have graduated since I’ve been here; one of them said that his dream was to play in front of 800 people—a packed house. That is something we have not done yet. That would be the goal. If you are not going to come to all the games make sure you all come to that one game—800 fans, cheering and having a good time.

If you had to pick a starting six with current NHL players who would you pick?

Crosby, Ovetchkin, and Lucic. On defence I would go with the two Chicago guys, Seabrook and Keith, and in the net I would go with the New York Ranger goalie, Lundqvist.