Ontario Avalanche head coach Rob O’Rourke is pleased with the direction of his team.
By Brian Lester
Third in the Western Division of the Western States Hockey League with a 25-15-1 record, the Avalanche are living up to the expectations they had when the season began.
“We’re turning into the team we want to be,” O’Rourke said. “I’m pleased with this group. We’re in a good place and we’re playing hard.”
Depth has been instrumental to the success of the Avalanche, who have scored 197 goals in 41 games while allowing 133.
Filip Ullgren leads the way for the Avalanche, punching in 35 goals and dishing out 42 assists. He’s one of three players in the top 15 in league scoring. The other two are Filip Stensson (23-52) and Manuel Mancha (30-41).
“Our numbers have been really good offensively. I like our depth and I also think we are improving on defense,” said O’Rourke. “The kids are playing with a lot of focus and discipline and it’s paying off.”
The Avalanche are looking to continue building off what they have accomplished up to this point and are chasing down the second-place Valencia Flyers in the Western Division. They have a two-game series Feb. 17-18 against the Flyers, who are 18 points ahead of Ontario. Division leaders the Long Beach Bombers put themselves out of Ontario’s reach, with a 26-point lead on the Avalanche and just 11 more games for Ontario.
The Avalanche will have to chase down the Bombers in the Thorne Cup playoffs instead.
Ontario competes hard every time it takes the ice and the potential is there for the Avalanche to go deep into the postseason.
“To win in the playoffs, we have to be good defensively and find ways to score the dirty goals,” O’Rourke said. “There is room for improvement, and we are working on getting better in those areas.
“We absolutely believe we are good enough to make a run,” O’Rourke added. “The talent is there. We just have to focus and be ready for every game. It comes down to who wants it more in the playoffs.”
Note: This is an updated version of an article that appeared in the February 2017 print edition of USA Jr. Hockey Magazine.
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