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Peoria Mustangs Built From the Ground Up

By Brian Lester, 03/09/18, 12:00AM EST


Individualized Off-Ice Training Programs Key to Success of NA3HL Team

PEORIA, IL -- Success isn’t just about what a team does on the ice, and the Peoria Mustangs organization proves as much.

Head coach Steve Ortman said players are put on a workout schedule that meets the individual needs of each player.

“Our trainer will do a test on each of the players and has a spreadsheet for him,” Ortman said. “It might say for one guy that you need to gain five pounds, or that you need to work on your footwork. Or it might say ‘this is good, so you don’t need to work on that part of your game as much.’ We do that on the ice also. We want to bring out the best in every individual.”

The philosophy has paid off, not only on the ice for the Mustangs, but for the careers of the players once they move on to the next level, be it college or a higher level of junior hockey.

“We don’t care if you think you have good hands or are a good skater. You can have better hands and be a better skater,” Ortman said. “We take that into the next day where we are teaching the game, teaching details and habits. No matter where you go, they have those lessons instilled in them.

“It won’t matter what another coach throws at you,” Ortman added. “You will be able to adapt because you already have that mindset of doing the right things on the ice.”

In the end, it’s all about development for the Mustangs, who limit the trades and transactions they make during the course of a season.

“We’re all about making our guys better. Development is huge for us,” Ortman said. “Our main goal is to get kids moved on no matter what level that is.”

Injuries are kept to a minimum as well, as a result of the training the players go through off the ice.

“I don’t think I’ve seen a game this year where, when the game was over, we couldn’t have played another period or two,” Ortman said. “Our guys get their butts kicked in the gym hard, and that really helps us late in the year. Our guys stay in tip-top shape, and you can see that we are a completely different team than we were at the beginning of the year.”

Peoria owned a 22-19-1-1 record through 43 games and is gearing up for the NA3HL postseason.

Ortman believes this team can make a run and the talent is certainly in place to make it happen.

Rookie Jack Radley led the team with 50 points, tallying 27 goals and 23 assists, while Jack Healy has come through with 14 goals and 29 assists for 43 points.

Three-year Mustangs veteran Braden Stewart has tallied 19 goals and 22 assists.

Several other players have put up at least 20 points this season – Blake Finley (12 goals, 37 points), Jack Power Wayvon (seven goals, 32 points), Rhett McDonald (five goals, 29 points), rookie Austin Keil (15 goals, 29 points), Cody Lane (11 goals, 27 points), rookie Ian McHenry (15 goals, 22 points) and Brandon Hay (nine goals and 20 points).

With the pieces in place, success in the playoffs comes down to being consistent from start to finish.

“We have to play a solid 60 minutes, stick to our game plan and run our systems,” Ortman said. “Every time we run our systems, we give teams trouble. If we can stay with that mindset, you never know what can happen. We’ve beaten good teams and feel like we can compete with anyone.”

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Braden Stewart, a '98 product of East Peoria, Ill., is a point-per game player for his hometown Peoria Mustangs. Courtesy Photo

Austin Keil, a 2000-native of Bloomington, Ill., scored 29 points through his first 41 games for the Mustangs. Courtesy Photo