Consistency is key for Stoney Creek hockey

By: Mike Moore | Rochester Post | Published January 17, 2011

 Stoney Creek junior Dominic Zuelch (41) gets ready to take a shot during a 4-3 victory against Liggett on Jan. 8. The Cougars were 6-4 at press time, and coach John Gruden feels his team is nearing its potential.

Stoney Creek junior Dominic Zuelch (41) gets ready to take a shot during a 4-3 victory against Liggett on Jan. 8. The Cougars were 6-4 at press time, and coach John Gruden feels his team is nearing its potential.

Photo by Donna Agusti

ROCHESTER HILLS — It’s not a matter of if for John Gruden, it’s just a matter of when.

When will the Rochester Hills Stoney Creek hockey coach see his team gain that consistency it’s lacked at times season?

When will it become the squad he knows it can?

“Sooner than later,” Gruden said last week. “I’m very confident in that.”

Asked to describe the year his team has had so far, Gruden said, “up and down.” Nothing has been terribly bad, and nothing has been exceedingly good.

Not yet, anyway.

“I think this is the type of squad that’s shown some flashes and that, if playing well, will be very tough to face as the season moves on,” he added. “We haven’t peaked yet, which is fine. But we’re moving in the right direction.”

The Cougars were 6-4 at press time and fresh off a 4-3 victory against Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett Jan. 8, not bad for a team that graduated half of its roster from the 2009-10 season. Gruden understood coming in that things would take time to get organized and the overall youth would need some seasoning before hitting its stride.

“We’ve come a long way from the start of the season until now,” senior forward Adam Ketner said. “It’s taken some time for us to come together and start playing more as a team, but we’re getting there. … In my three years here, this is the best team as far as character that I’ve been a part of. It’s a good group of guys that I think can still do a lot of good things.”

As January moves forward and the start of the playoffs (Feb. 28) slowly approaches, the goal remains simple.

“I want us to be one of those teams that you don’t want to face come playoff time,” Gruden said. “I want to be that team that can cause some trouble, no matter who we play.”

Aside from a 9-3 loss to an unbeaten Farmington High team, the Cougars have been in every game. And while, as Gruden alluded to, things aren’t perfect just yet, there is an understanding of what needs to happen so that peak is reached, sooner than later.

“A lot of little things here and there,” Ketner said. “Whether it’s our forecheck or work ethic, or whatever.”

“Fixable things,” Gruden added.

And that’s where the confidence comes from.

Gruden isn’t asking his guys to do anything they can’t. He’s not demanding they suddenly
become point-per-game scorers or a team that doesn’t give up more than a handful of shots.

“I just want them all on the same page, understanding what it takes to win from one night to the next,” he said. “Part of that is their mental approach to the game. But they’re getting better. I can see it. We’re close. We’re not there yet, but we’re very close.”