The U18 AAA Interlake Lightning have turned a new leaf this season and it is starting to pay dividends. The Lightning have a new regime this year as they brought in a new head coach prior to the season's start, and he has overhauled their system.
The head coach, Aaron Kaatz, says while they're currently on the outside looking in when it comes to a playoff position, he likes the progression that is being made by this team.
"The number one thing that we're making sure is a standard is our work ethic for each and every game. When we compete, we compete well, and we look really good against a lot of the top teams in this league," Kaatz explains. "We've had a lot of good flashes, and a lot of good moments that showcase what we can be. It's now about making that consistent each and every night. That has been the challenge but that is always the case in the first month with a new group."
Kaatz says they're on the right path, and they're making sure they're playing the game the right way for them. He describes that style as gritty.
"Early on in the season, historically, teams play a run-and-gun style. They've been able to utilize that when teams that have to rely more on structure, hard work, and grinding out games that are 2-1, 1-0, or 3-2. Early on, you may suffer a little more losses than wins like that but as the season progresses, your structure is what will win you hockey games," Kaatz continues. "The programs I have been with in the past, that has always been the case. We're not focused so much on individual game results. We're trying to see that end goal and still maintain that forward progress to get there."
Kaatz says that the main goal is making a playoff birth for the first time since 2015. The Lightning currently sit in ninth place in the standings and are just a few points back of that postseason position. Kaatz notes if they continue the progression at the same rate throughout the season, they should be on the way to getting over the eight-year drought.
"Now that they've seen how the league is and how teams play, they're starting to learn a little bit more about structure, tactics, and gameplay. Now, they're starting to implement their skills with their tactical knowledge. So, they're starting to progress in the right direction. All the players are still climbing that hill, each at their own pace but everybody is still making that forward progress."
Interlake will kick off a four-game home stand on Friday against the Yellowhead Chiefs.