Steel prepare for 3 road games
NEW ULM — On Friday night, the New Ulm Steel played what head coach Zach Stepan felt was their best overall contest as they defeated West Division-leading North Iowa 4-2 at the New Ulm Civic Center.
It was the Steel’s (2-7-1) first home win of the season and first home win since February 5.
New Ulm now faces three road contests. Friday and Saturday the Steel travel to North Iowa before heading to Willmar November 27. The Steel are back in New Ulm Saturday, November 28 when they host Willmar.
“That was the best game that we have played overall and won,” Stepan said Monday before practice. “We have played like that in other games but have not come out on the winning end of things. We did play a good game this season against Alexandria in a game where we outshot them 50-28 but lost 5-3. And we had a game against Willmar on Saturday where we played a good 60 minutes but lost.”
Stepan thought that coming out with a win Friday was big for the players mentally. New Ulm has seen leads late in games fade away.
Friday night New Ulm led the Bulls 3-1 when North Iowa cut the lead to 3-2 late and then pulled their goalie for an extra attacker before James Spaaragaren salted the game away with an empty net goal. It was Spaaragaren’s team-leading fifth goal of the year.
“We knew that [North Iowa] was going to pull [their goalie] so we had talked to the guys about how we wanted to play our defensive zone if that happens,” Stepan said. “It was a great job by Spaaragaren where he literally did a spin-o-rama, shot the puck down the ice and it went into the net. Whether that is skill or a little bit of puck-luck, I think that the hockey gods were with us that night.”
Stepan thought that the key to that win was simple.
“We had discipline,” he said as New Ulm had to kill only two minor penalties. “Against Willmar last Sunday we had 24 penalty minutes. When you are in the penalty box for over a period you are not going to win many hockey games.”
Stepan was so frustrated with the lack of discipline by his team that he made each team member write an essay on discipline.
“I read them all — they did a good job with them — so it worked this past weekend. But it has to be something that we have to continue to stress.”
Stepan thought that instead of getting his players on the ice and skate them until they dropped, having each player check inside themselves was more beneficial.
“Beating North Iowa was icing on the cake. Now I think that the players wil start to believe more in the process that we are trying to create is a good process and get them where they need to go. They just need to stay on the train tracks.”