The Lightning girls hockey team recently began the 2019-20 season with a new coach and new approach to games, with the hope that it can put a few more marks in the wins column this season.
Chuck Deutsch takes over as head coach - the seventh in the past 12 years - for a Lightning team that has a healthy balance of young and old. After going 9-13-2 last season, the team lost just two seniors to graduation and now has eight seniors in leadership roles for the more than 15 sophomores and freshmen on the squad.
An aspect of the team that has impressed the new coach thus far is how hard his players want to be pushed in practice.
“They are paying attention and working hard,” Deutsch said. “I did a preseason questionnaire asking them questions about themselves … And a key question on there was, ‘What do you expect of me as a coach?’ I was surprised that, I would say, 60 to 65% of them said they wanted to be worked harder.”
Because of this, nearly every drill is done at full speed, and nearly every bit of situational training is treated like the real thing.
The Lightning plan to utilize their speed, as Deutsch feels the team may be faster than most of the teams they will face this year.
“Especially in girls hockey, if you have decent hands, speed is going to dominate,” he said.
The team also hopes to employ a more aggressive approach to the offensive side of things - protecting the puck whenever possible and doing their best to keep it on the more favorable side of the blue line.
“There is a tendency in hockey where - when you get into trouble - you flip the puck away and throw it away,” Deutsch said. “I’m trying to teach them to take the puck, utilize the space they have, keep their feet moving and shield the puck whenever possible.
“Make the other team earn the puck. Don’t just give it to them because you can’t handle it. It’s human nature to say, ‘I’m in trouble and I don’t want the puck anymore.’ I tell them to welcome trouble and steer their way out of it and fight their way out of it.”
Despite the literal change of pace, the Lightning began the season 0-2, which includes a 7-3 loss to Willmar - whom Deutsch believes may be the team to beat in the section this year, along with Fergus Falls. Despite the two losses, the coach has been pleased with how his team is performing, saying they have out-shot and out-skated their opponents, but have had a few costly penalties and faced two red-hot goalies.
Once his team picks up a win or two, Deutsch believes it may be hard to stop. When that happens, a section championship appearance may not be far behind.
“I would not be surprised if we went to state,” Deutsch said. “I really wouldn’t be. With the talent we have, there is no reason we shouldn’t. I told them at the start of the year that this is our 12th season of high school hockey and we have never played in a section championship - not once. That is our first goal - to play in one so we know what it’s like.”
Assistant coaches for the Lightning include Greg Yee, along with former Lightning players Chloe Deutsch and Mariah Reed.