Things are starting to fall into place.
Under the guidance of new bench boss Steve Hamilton, the Hitmen have come out of the gates firing on all cylinders with a perfect 4-0 start to pre-season action.
“Our process has been getting better with each day,” Hamilton said. “There is more evidence of our improved team play as the pre-season has gone on and I’ve been really impressed.
“You worry about your own team and are not worried about comparing yourself to others and I think that’s helped with our success.”
It was no secret there would be an adjustment period with Hamilton taking over the reins, but the players have responded to his style of play and the systems he’s put in place.
With a clean slate, Hamilton has made it clear that each player has the chance to make a first impression and earn their playing time.
“You always are making a case for yourself with opportunities you get and they have embraced it,” he said. “With guys away at NHL camps and a few injuries, the guys have recognized that it’s even more of a good opportunity to carve out a role on the team. Embracing roles and responsibilities is a big part in being a successful hockey player.
“It’s nice to come together as a team and start to unite. We’re carving out our identity and focusing on what the Hitmen are and what the Hitmen can be.”
With the regular season set to open on Sept. 22 in Cranbrook against the Kootenay ICE, the Hitmen will be seeing a lot of their rivals in the next couple weeks, as their final two-pre-season games are also against the ICE.
Hamilton says they can’t look too far ahead, though, as they have plenty of work still to do.
“All the focus is this weekend,” he said. “There are still roster moves to decide headed into the regular season and we want to have a good feel on what roles guys can play.”
“These last two tune-ups are valuable hockey games. It’s been a really good process of guys putting in the effort and pushing to show what they can bring. We want to continue with the process and we want to continue with the next opportunity, which is Friday, and we want to make the most of it.
Most impressive so far, says the coach, is the focus and buy-in he has gotten from his young charges.
“We want to continue to polish the product,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re playing with purpose and trying to layer in all the components of our game. It can seem overwhelming at the beginning of the year with the to-do list seeming extremely long, but they’ve done an excellent job of picking bits of things one at a time and incorporating it and we want to continue with that mentality.
“As the season goes on, you continue to add to your arsenal, add different looks and the goal is to be great at what we are trying to accomplish systematically.”