Published: Sunday, April 8, 2007
Kaminski turned 'Hounds
Friday night, the Youngstown SteelHounds staved off elimination from their first postseason series because:
They scored two power-play goals against Colorado.
They successfully killed all eight of the Eagles' man-advantage opportunities, including a brief 5-on-3 in the third period.
Rookie goalie Brad Roberts stopped all but one shot in the first 59 minutes of action.
Coach Kevin Kaminski made the ultimate sacrifice his mullet.
Because hockey players are as superstitious as any athletes, it's hard to discount the fourth option.
Kaminski's decision for a drastic change in hairstyle was motivated by his team's 3-0 deficit in the best-of-7 series.
"We ran out of good stuff so we had to change it up," Kaminski said after Friday's 3-2 victory in Game 4. "The mullet runneth out."
New hair style
was last resort
After meeting with his team Friday morning, Kaminski set off to visit his hair stylist.
"Our backs are against the wall so I put up on the board that our character has to come out," Kaminski said.
Nothing says character quite like a style change.
Colorado coach Chris Stewart said the difference in Game 4 from the Eagles' blowout wins in the first three games is that the SteelHounds took advantage of their opportunities.
"They played desperate and worked hard for that win," Stewart said. "They have played very hard throughout the series."
Colorado won the first three games by scores of 7-2, 7-4 and 5-2.
"They were close games as well, but we had a couple bounces that went our way," Stewart said. "I thought this game was played very similar to other games, it was just a little tighter on the scoreboard."
The Eagles didn't get their second goal until 24 seconds remained and they had pulled goalie Marco Emond for an extra attacker.
"We did a great job of holding the blue line," Kaminski said after the high-flying Eagles were limited to 20 shots. "Our forwards were coming back hard and we kept everything to the outside."
That the SteelHounds are playing into the second weekend in April speaks well for the job Kaminski has done since becoming coach last September.
In their inaugural season under Coach Jean LaForest, the SteelHounds went 24-35-5 for 53 points and were eliminated from postseason contention with a month to go.
get new coach
After LaForest resigned last August, SteelHounds captain Jeff Christian helped convince owner Herb Washington to bring Kaminski to Youngstown.
Once they did, Kaminski looked at his unfamiliar roster and began making changes.
"The only person I knew was Jeff," said Kaminski of his late start. "We had Richie [center Chris Richards]. Alky [defenseman Jeff Alcombrack] had some good numbers. Defensively, Margie [Stephen Margeson] and [Kelly] Sickavish were solid players but didn't have great numbers. After that ..."
Kaminski went to work. Tab Lardner, the fourth leading scorer (48 points), came in a trade with Arizona.
In December, forwards Mark Odut and tough guy fan favorite Dallas Anderson were acquired. When defenseman Paul Esdale bolted for Europe, Kaminski traded his rights to the Eagles for center Garrett Larson. Milan Maslonka and Matt Hanson were signed in January.
The SteelHounds (34-20-10, 78 points) finished third in the Northeast Division behind Bossier-Shreveport and Memphis. Christian (116 points) and Richards (106 points) were named two of the CHL's six finalists for the league's Most Valuable Player, with Christian winning the award.
"Kevin has done a great job getting us prepared and motivated and focused," Christian said. "Everybody respects that."
The SteelHounds qualified for the expanded playoffs (the CHL added a round so that six teams from each conference would advance). Had last year's format still be in effect, the SteelHounds would have been kept from the postseason by losing a tiebreaker (most wins) to Oklahoma City (78 points).
"With the pickups and the trades we made, it gives us a good chance," Kaminski said. "What I like most is through all the video and the teaching that we've done is that everyone has bought in to the foundation that we've built.
"The character, the drive to get better whether it's conditioning, whether it's teaching them learning little nuances of the game has been great.
"What else has been great is the way they sacrifice their bodies. They pay the price blocking shots, finishing ever check, that's a big part of it.
"We're not a fancy team. We're kind of a lunch bucket hero team, where you bring your lunch bucket and hard hats and work boots, and you go to work."
Kaminski said his most pleasant surprise has been Margeson, the defenseman who scored 39 points.
"He's put up great numbers. He's played forward and [defense], he's brings his A game every day," Kaminski said. "He's turned into a pro this year and I think he has a chance to play in the American [Hockey] League."
Kaminski has made an impression with or without the mullet.
Tom Williams is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write him at email@example.com and read his sports blogs at Vindy.com.