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Coyotes’ head coach believes team has the talent to make a run at KIJHL championship
With the exception of the occasional bout of inconsistency, the head coach and general manager of the Osoyoos Coyotes believes his team is capable of making another extended playoff run and being able to challenge for a league championship this season.
After a slow start to the season where they won only one of their first five games, the red-hot Coyotes are one of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s (KIJHL) hottest teams heading into the new year.
The Coyotes sport a record of 20-14 and are now within striking distance of the first-place Kelowna Chiefs in the Okanagan Division of the KIJHL.
Since the difficult start, the Coyotes have shown they can compete against the league’s very best teams and Law believes his club is only going to get better heading down the stretch and into the playoffs.
“We’ve lost games that I thought we should have won and we’ve won a few that I thought we didn’t play particularly well and could easily have lost,” said Law following a team practice just before Christmas at the Sun Bowl Arena.
“We’ve fallen behind in a lot of games and managed to come back and steal some wins. I guess you could call us the heartbreak kids a lot of the time.”
While he would like his team to play more consistently more often, Law said the Coyotes have a deep and balanced team capable of defeating any team in the league when they’re playing their best hockey.
“Considering that we have either the youngest or one of the youngest teams in the league, I’m not surprised that we often don’t play with the consistency that I would like, but the good news is we have enough talent to overcome that lack of consistency most of the time,” he said. “When we’re playing our best hockey, we’re a force to be reckoned with, so it’s the job of the coaching staff to get the players to play a more consistent game.”
The Coyotes have become one of the league’s highest-scoring teams with only Creston Valley, Nelson and Kamloops – who lead the other three divisions – scoring more goals.
With outstanding goaltending from the tandem of Lawrence Langan and Nathan Alalouf and a strong group of defencemen, Law believes the Coyotes have the right mixture to continue to improve heading down the stretch and into the post-season.
“I’m very satisfied with our goaltending and believe we might have the best tandem in the league,” he said. “I have great confidence in both our goaltenders and feel comfortable with putting either one of them in at any time.
“We have a group of solid defenders who might not be overly flashy, but they’re reliable and play well as a unit. And up front we have three lines that score with consistency and a fourth line of young guys who play very hard and always manage to chip in with the big goal at the right time.”
Leadership is crucial on any good hockey team and captain Colin Chmelka is one of the league’s best, said Law.
“Colin is a great hockey player and a great leader,” he said. “He leads by example and the other guys want to work as hard as he does. He’s also a leader in the community and the first one to volunteer to lend a hand for any good cause.
“We couldn’t have a better leader on our hockey club.”
Another big bonus for this year’s team is how close they are on and off the ice, said Law.
“We had a very tight-knit group last year, but this team might be even closer,” he said. “They hang around together all the time as a group when they’re not on the ice and they’re always laughing and joking around.
“Not all teams are like that and I’m glad these kids like each other as much as they do because it does make a difference on the ice.”
Last years’ club had a magical playoff run and came within one victory of reaching the KIJHL championship series.
Law believes this club is just as talented and is capable of the same kind of success.
“There are some very good teams in the league this year, but if we play our best hockey, I think we match up well against anyone,” he said. “I honestly don’t think there’s a team in the league that we can’t beat when we’re playing our best, but playoff hockey is tough and we’re going to have to get better and play our best hockey when it counts in the playoffs. I know this group is really looking forward to doing something special together.”