POSTGAME: Matt Thomas quotes (11/23)
Thunder head coach Matt Thomas spoke to the media after Friday’s 6-3 Thunder victory over the Bakersfield Condors at Stockton Arena.
RE: Filling scoring roles in absence of Cornet and Rajala
MATT THOMAS: Huge game for us: mentally, from a confidence standpoint, so many different levels. We needed to come out and play that type of game where guys stepped up…we always keep forgetting that Hunter guy, but he seems to really make a line go. Just a great effort all the way through. I thought our D were great, I thought [Cody Reichard] really settled in throughout the game and got better as the game went on, made some huge saves there in the second period. There were a lot of positives out of a game where we needed a lot of positives.
RE: Levesque and Riendeau responding to be called upon as “go-to guys.”
THOMAS: I think the one thing… a lot of times in this league when you lose two top line guys you don’t necessarily have top line guys to slot in there. And because of the nature of the year it was a juggling act, it was hard. Those guys were getting frustrated; they were losing their confidence and not getting the opportunity. It was a juggling act for me, but those types of players, they want that pressure. They want the pressure to be a top line guy, a go-to guy and a guy that’s going to make a difference, so it was nice to see that they took full advantage of it in their first opportunity where the challenge was issued to them, but they needed to be.
RE: Were they in a situation where they have to be on that kind of a line to be on the lineup?
THOMAS: For sure. Every game those guys played they played on the power play, but a lot of times when we were playing we were playing 11 forwards, 5 D during the stretch there so everybody was getting short changed a little bit on ice time and what they’re used to so it was tough. They always played with good players, but there’s certainly those types of guys. They need to be on the power play, they need to play with skilled guys. I think all three of our lines are pretty skilled and fast, I wouldn’t sit there and say that we have a checking line, but everyone was just contributing and it was tough to pinpoint the guys that weren’t doing it enough. It’s nice for those guys to come in and make sure we don’t skip a beat losing two important players like we did.
When [Bakersfield] went up 3-2 my confidence started to go ‘oh jeez…’ and it was one of those things like ‘is the goaltender going to beat us’ and it was one of my concerns playing these guys.
[Bakersfield head coach Matt O’Dette]really challenged his team to compete harder and step up and make plays. I knew they were going to come out hard and they weren’t going to go away, and I knew they had great goaltending in both their guys. It was a potential for disaster mentally for us, but we stuck with it. I think that’s a credit to the guys; that second period we maybe could have had three or four and we didn’t have any, then we got two late on two nice, individual, hardworking plays where guys got opportunities in the slot and made the most of them. That was key; that was the TSN turning point, as we like to call it. With under a minute to go, 25 shots, and then potentially coming out of that period with nothing to show for it on the scoreboard could have been mentally a little bit exhausting for the guys.
RE: Jesse Fratkin’s first game back
THOMAS: I think he was great. You do a lot of adjusting in games and in between periods and a lot of your teaching happens there, so it’s tough for a guy who’s not in the lineup for a bit to make sure that he’s got everything down. There were a few things I had to go over, which were expected, but I thought he played real well. He just did a lot of things well that makes you realize and remember how important of a player Fratkin is in the big scheme of things. It’s nice to see him get going that way.
RE: How much better is Deck this year than last year?
THOMAS: I really liked Deck last year. Like all of our D, there are a lot of special characteristics there and I think there’s one thing: he competes hard. He competes hard and he’s secretly got a great mind for the game offensively, and he’s a mistake-free player defensively. That’s probably his best quality, is that he really knows when it’s high risk or it’s low risk in his decision making and makes good reads in that. He’s just a smart player. There’s a reason he was an Unsung Hero. We knew we needed to give him an award, but Little was the leading scorer amongst D and we had other guys just a little bit ahead of him in some categories, but we knew he was a great player. It doesn’t go unidentified by his teammates, that’s for sure.