In the 2nd edition of "They Said It" Laredo Bucks Head Coach Terry Ruskowski did the CHL Q&A answering questions on topics from Characterizing last season, looking to get affiliated with the NHL's Minnesota Wild and the AHL's Houston Aeros to help with recruiting and to help improve the quality of players for the Bucks.
The last couple of years have been filed with playoff disappointments and teams that have been missing a critical piece or two to have a shot of winning the Ray Miron Presidents Cup Title.
Even though the Bucks have been a regular playoff team, the 2007-2008 season was the most successful when they won the Southeast Division Title then got within one win of the Ray Miron Presidents Cup Championship Series when they swept the Odessa Jackalopes in the Conference Semifinals then lost to the eventual champion Arizona Sundogs in the Southern Conference Final.
Here's the team's records over the last 3 seasons going back to the 2007-2008 season.
Regular Season: 42-19-3 87 PTS, Southeast DIV. Title, 1st in Southern Conference
Playoffs: Conf. SFS Beat ODE 4-0, Conf Finals Lost to ARZ 4-3
Regular Season: 36-23-5 77 PTS, 2nd in Southeast DIV, 3rd in Southern Conference
Playoffs: Conf. SFS Lost to ODE 4-2
Regular Season: 32-20-12 76 PTS, 3rd in Southern Conference
Playoffs: Conf. SFS Lost to Allen 4-3
Here's some previous editions of "They Said It"
RG Valley Killer Bees Head Coach Chris Brooks
Rapid City Rush Head Coach Joe Ferras
Quad City Mallards Head Coach Frank Anzalone
Here's the Q&A
Looking back at last season, how would you characterize the play of your last team?
I think it was a real gutsy effort from my team. We went through a lot of adversity with J.P. Levasseur getting called up in December and never coming back down and we had a lot of injuries last season. There was one point during the season where I walked into our locker room and we had four guys on crutches wearing suits. I have to give the team a lot of credit, they played shorthanded quite a bit but came up large when we had to. The team showed a whole lot of heart and character and persevered to even get us to the playoffs and get the third seed was a huge credit to them and I'm really proud of their efforts.
You seemed to find a late season gem in Pier Pelletier, how good can he become and do you see anything in him that reminds you of some great goaltenders of the past for the Bucks?
When Pelletier first came in we didn't get a lot of ice time until January and we went with another goaltender. But once we got Pelletier the reigns back he drove this team in the right direction and played absolutely brilliant in the playoffs, just brilliant. I liked him so much that he was my first signing after the season was over. The kid has a very bright future, just not with us, but he has a very future ahead of him.
With the loss of the Corpus Christi Icerays in South Texas, the Bucks will have to the hit the road more then in past seasons, does this factor into the type of player you recruit knowing that road points are going to be so valuable?
Right now you try to recruit the best players possible at every position. Players always know that road points are tough to get and this season will be no different. I do like the road schedule was put together this season. We will have some rest between games on the road and I hope that makes a difference to pick up those points.
On the recruiting trail, you have found some hidden jewels in the past, who are you most excited about for this upcoming season?
I like Joe Scali out of Cornell. I've heard a lot of good things about him. He has good speed, he's physical. He scored in junior and at Cornell his defense was tremendous and he killed a ton of penalties. I like Kroger, the kid who played in the best league in Austria. He has good size, he skates really well and he's a guy that we are looking to contribute. There's a couple of others who we are looking at to make a difference.
Serge Dube returns to the team, what does he bring your club both on and off the ice?
Serge is a leader. He's a guy who's won championships with, he's a guy who smart with the puck and controls it very well. If anyone has troubles on the team they go to Serge and he gives them the right advice. He's coached the kid's here in Laredo the last couple of years and I think he knows what it takes to be a good coach and I know that he will be a huge factor for our team to get to the next level.
Although 8 of the 9 teams make it to the postseason, how important will it be to finish high in the conference for home ice advantage?
That's whats been a detriment to us the last two years is that we didn't have the home ice advantage against Odessa in 2009 or Allen last year. It really hurt us a lot not having home ice advantage in those two series. Our goal every season is to win every single game we play. We are going to play like we want every game and get as high in the standings as possible so we can get home ice. Having home ice is good for the players, the fans and the city of Laredo.
The Bucks and the Americans played a great series in last year's playoffs and Allen should have a good club again, how do you feel you match up with the defending conference champions?
I'm still not finished recruiting yet. We need to get better to match up with Allen, they had a very good team last year and should again this year. I'm hoping this season we will have fewer injuries so we can compete better. It's going to be a huge challenge in the league this year because there are so many good teams. If you don't play well then you are not going to win.
After coaching the Bucks for nearly a decade, how have the players changed over time?
I don't know if the players have changed a lot. I think they have more opportunities then they did before. Europe is always a good opportunity for the players. There are guys now who are just happy to be here and guys who want to work hard to get to the next level. I want the players who want to get to the next level on my team not the guys who are just happy to be here.
The Bucks have strong affiliations in the past with AHL and NHL clubs, what advantage did or didn't that give your team?
Recruiting wist it's a huge advantage. It gives players a chance to get called up more, and for us we will get good players sent to us. We are working a little bit with the Houston Aeros now where we are sending our guys to their camp. It's nice working with them, hopefully down the road we can get an affiliation with Houston.
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