Just take one look at the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) standings and it’s obvious the Battle Creek Jr. Revolution is having a tough go this year.
Without a win yet and just one point from a shootout loss back on Halloween, one would think the Battle Creek staff and players would have their heads drooped and their confidence shot.
In actuality, that’s not the case at all.
“Everybody on the team is very positive,” defenseman James Aldrich said. “We’re starting to rely on each other more with the puck. We’ve had a lot of players in and out, so we’re just now getting our chemistry set. The defense is getting better as a whole and the offense is learning to shoot the puck more, so they’re starting to score more.”
Mark Olson and Dean Kolstad took over the team’s coaching duties at the beginning of November when previous coach Nick Bet wanted to give pro hockey another try. Olson said since the first day he’s been with the team, positive attitudes have been prevalent.
“One of the things that really motivates Dean and I is that there are a lot of guys on this squad that want to get better, want to learn and want to work hard,” Olson said. “We were amazed at their ability to continue to battle and stay hungry. We are staying upbeat as a team by continuing to improve and strive for that first win. I think once the boys get that taste of winning back in their blood, we will continue to win games.”
And while Olson said that he feels “all the boys have made huge strides forward, some on their game, some on discipline,” he did make note of the play of a few players.
“Christopher Williams and Ben Belton are guys that we can count on in the fact that they are extremely coachable, know their roles well on the team, never complain, and have been playing hard that or above their abilities,” Olson said. “Jordan Sabatino falls in that category as well and he brings a tremendous amount of energy and hustle to our team.
“James Aldrich would be the guy I'd name our strongest all-around player. He is very coachable and is getting better ever day. He plays disciplined hockey, rarely gets penalties and plays a lot of minutes, including penalty kill and power play. If he continues to improve and work hard, I feel he can continue to play hockey at another level.”
For the players, too, maintaining a positive nature about them has not been easy, but like Olson said, there are no complainers in Battle Creek.
“It's definitely been a tough season thus far,” forward Brett Menton said. “I have faith in my guys and I let them know that not only when things are going the way they are now.”
Menton has even found a way to keep humor involved in what has been a turbulent season. When asked who has been the Jr. Revolution’s top player, Menton didn’t hesitate.
“The No. 1 standout guy in my mind is (goaltender) Karel Popper,” said Menton. “He leads the team by action. He’s a real quiet guy, unless you have the privilege to room with him.”
As for what the rest of the season holds, Menton and Aldrich have high expectations.
“Realistically, we have the potential to win out,” Menton said. “We just need to tap into that and we'll make it happen out on the ice.”
“Hopefully, we can start playing harder together and stay out of the penalty box,” Aldrich said. “And start winning.”
Olson is in agreement.
“The lofty goal is to win 50 percent of the remaining games and I really believe we have the ability to do that,” said Olson. “We just need to get that first win. The boys believe that they can do it, but it’s very difficult to stay focused when the going gets tough near the end of games after battling hard all season and not being able to get that first win.
“I think that first win will bring everything together and we will continue to win games.”
BATTLE CREEK JR. REVOLUTION: Top scorer Justin Locante has scored 11 of his 18 points on special teams this season (six power-play goals, four power-play assists, one shorthanded goal).
CHICAGO HITMEN: Moscow native Oleg Popov had three points on two goals and an assist in his last two games Dec. 18-19 against Quad City.
CLEVELAND JR. LUMBERJACKS: With two goals on Dec. 18 against Battle Creek, Jonathan Buttitta became the first Cleveland skater this year with more than 10 goals (11).
FLINT JR. GENERALS: Stephen Hibbard recorded three assists on Dec. 21 against Metro and now has 11 helpers on the year.
METRO JETS: Tommy Kilgore and Matt Stirling each scored twice in the Jets’ 6-4 win at Flint on Dec. 21.
MICHIGAN MOUNTAIN CATS: In the Mountain Cats’ nine wins this year, Jacob Endicott has the game-winning goal in five of those victories.
PEORIA MUSTANGS: Nathan Chasteen popped his team-best 20th goal of the year Dec. 19 at Metro.
PITTSBURGH JR. PENGUINS: Charles Williams had a four-point weekend (three goals, assist) Dec. 18-19 against Queen City - both wins for the Jr. Penguins.
QUAD CITY JR. FLAMES: Defenseman and captain Jerry Rank scored his first goal in nearly two months Dec. 19 against Chicago as the Jr. Flames swept the then-first place Hitmen.
QUEEN CITY STEAM: Queen City has points in three of its last four games (two wins, overtime loss).
ST. LOUIS JR. BLUES: Cooper Mitchell scored in each of St. Louis’ three straight wins at Michigan Dec. 17-19.
TOLEDO CHEROKEE: Toledo acquired 18-year-old defenseman Trevor Morrin from Battle Creek this week. Morrin had one assist in 16 games with the Jr. Revolution this year.