• November 27, 2020

NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE: Jackalopes using break to get back to basics - Odessa American: Sports

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NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE: Jackalopes using break to get back to basics

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Posted: Tuesday, November 17, 2020 7:25 pm

It’s been just over a month since Jason Fortier arrived as the new coach of the Odessa Jackalopes. It’s been a whirlwind ride since then as Fortier is still getting to know his team.

The Jackalopes got off to a 3-0 start but have fallen back to 3-3 following a weekend sweep by the Shreveport Mudbugs. Shreveport won the two-game series with 7-3 and 6-1 victories on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

With six games under his belt, Fortier took a chance to step back and reflect on where his team stood during a press conference Tuesday at the Ector County Coliseum.

 “I’m still pleased even though we’re not getting the results that we want right now,” Fortier said. “I think we could have a better record with the performances that we’ve had but we still need to work on some things to get better.”

Among the areas that Fortier wanted to see improvement is getting that final push to finish plays and more toughness.

Part of that process, he added, involves getting the team in the right frame of mind to play well at home. The Jackalopes have played four home games through the early stretch of the season and are 1-3.

One of the challenges that the team is dealing with is building chemistry. COVID-19 has put restrictions on what the team can and can’t do and Fortier said that it has changed the dynamic on teaching his system.

“We’ve had them here and we’ve done a lot of video and it’s been a little bit of a challenging process because it’s been more of a teacher-student mentality versus a we are family mentality,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to build now.”

The Jackalopes are off this weekend and don’t return to the ice for a game until Nov. 25 with a road game against the Amarillo Bulls.

Fortier hopes that it provides a chance for everyone to go through a “mental restart” before the next series with the Bulls and said that he’s planning on changing his approach as well with the focus geared towards getting back to the fundamentals.

“We’re really getting an opportunity right now to go through that process with them and show them the development side of it,” Fortier said. “We were maybe trying to grow a little too fast earlier.

“So now we’re bringing it right back to stage one. And then hopefully, we’ll be by stage two or three by the time our next game comes.”

>> EARLY STANDOUTS: Fortier also added that there have been a number of standouts on his team to this point. He also made a call to the rest of the team to step up and match that intensity.

“There have been a lot of players that have stood out but we need more though,” he said. “We’ve had the same few that are leading the way every practice. Now, we need more of a buy in from everyone.”

Fortier added that forward Isaiah Huempfner was named an assistant captain and also singled out forward Tyler German and defenseman Evan Orr who have impressed through their work ethic and their leadership.

He also credited goaltender Connor Hasley for his efforts as well.

“Connor has been tremendous for us,” Fortier said. “I know he had a bit of a tough go this past weekend. But it’s not so much one game. It’s more of the everyday battle of how he comes to the rink and how he prepares.”

>> TRUSTWORTHY: Assistant coach and goalie coach Nate Skidmore also spoke Tuesday following Fortier’s remarks. Like his head coach, Skidmore says that he’s confident in the team’s ability in terms of talent. He just wants to see more effort and have the team continue to build that cohesiveness.

“We’ve got a lot of skill and like Fort said, we just need to have a little more power,” Skidmore added. “We need to start going into that defense-first mentality.”

Skidmore added: “We want to make sure that we’re instilling trust in our players so that they start trusting each other.”

>> Follow Tony Venegas on Twitter at @OA_TVenegas

Odessa, TX

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