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FRUSTRATION SETS IN
November 10, 2001
by Todd Rourke
The Greensboro Generals, coming off an exciting 3-2 shootout win in Columbia, seemed primed to give the home fans what they have been waiting for: a victory in their own building. It didn't happen and the action on the ice seemed to underscore the level of frustration that is beginning to build. Much like the previous home game against Trenton, the Generals played fairly well in the first two periods only to suffer a collapse in the third and fall to the Roanoke Express, 6-3.
Roanoke set the tone early, peppering Generals' goalie Bujar Amidovski (3-3-1) with a total of 25 shots on goal in the first period. Greensboro, on the contrary, only managed eight. Despite the lack of chances, it was Greensboro's Chris Bell who opened the scoring at the 11:41 mark. Bell picked up a nice dump pass from Dion Lassu to the left of Express goalie Jordan Willis (2-2-0) and drove it home for the score. The Express, in what would become something of a trend, answered quickly. The Generals' Casey Kesselring had the puck swiped from him as he tried to bring it up in front of the crease. Express winger Pete Gardiner quickly flipped the puck to Frank Novock who then beat Amidovski easily at 13:04. The Express spent the first period playing a crisp and quick brand of hockey with many passes. The Generals relied primarily on bumping and grinding in an attempt to slow them down.
In the second period, the Generals came out inspired and tried to dictate the tempo moreso than they had in the first. Indeed the Generals limited Roanoke to only three shots on goal in the period while taking seven themselves. Roanoke, nevertheless, took a 2-1 lead with a goal from Rick Kowalsky. The goal, at 9:22, followed a solid Greensboro flurry at the other end which Willis turned away. The frustration of the Generals bubbled up sixteen seconds later as the Generals' Craig Stahl and the Express' Gary Ricciardi exchanged punches. For his effort, Stahl received a game misconduct. At the 10:50 mark, Greensboro winger Chris Brassard stepped up with an S on his chest and scored off a sweet pass from Sal Manganaro. This closed out the scoring for the period.
Greensboro came out rather tight in the third, seemingly content to knot things up tied 2-2. The Express, however, resumed their tempo from the first period and staked themselves to a 4-2 lead with goals from Duncan Dalmao, at 3:54, and Kowalsky, at 4:24. Down two, the Generals offense awakened and they reclaimed some of their second period pace, generating several good scoring opportunities. Roanoke's defense, bend as it might, didn't break and Willis maintained poised in net. During this stretch of approximately six minutes, nearly all of the action was in Roanoke's end but the Generals failed to score.
Greensboro's frustration boiled over with several fights and skirmishes in the period, one of which ended with Brassard and the Express' Helperl tagged with majors at 10:02. Rob Sandrock broke through for Greensboro at 16:50 to bring the Generals within one, 4-3. Moments later, while trying to bring out the puck, Sandrock overskated it and lost it to Roanoke's Kowalsky. Kowalsky wasted no time and scored unassisted over a sprawling Amidovski at 17:48, completing the hat-trick. The Express added an empty-netter at 19:47 to round out the scoring, 6-3.
"I'm dumbfounded, I don't know what to say," said Greensboro Head Coach Graeme Townshend in post game comments. "There's just no excuse. It's not that we're not working hard, it's just we're making stupid mistakes. It seems we don't have everybody working at the same time. It's all mental. We have a game plan and we don't consistently stick to our game plan and whenever we don't we have a bad result ... we lose."
Townshend has made a point in the past that part of their plan is to follow a three-second rule, meaning that no one holds the puck longer than that before shooting or passing. It was readily apparent that this "rule" was widely abandoned by the Generals over the course of the game. Townshend was forthright when asked about it, "When you look at their club, they move the puck tic-tac-toe. It's just hockey, I mean it's not something they haven't been told before at some other point in their lives. It's just the willingness to want to do it, that's what it comes down to. Do we want to win (or not)? It's very very frustrating, but we'll get through it."
Townshend went on to talk about the need to teach and the willingness to learn which led to questions about current and future roster moves. "(It's) certainly something we have to talk about, there's no question it needs to be talked about. I don't want to push the panic button, but when you're losing games at home and the fans come out to support you ... it's got to be frustrating for them. I'm sure it's frustrating for the players, but the bottom line is we just can't continue losing (at home). I want to do it with the guys that are here, but we definitely have to look at making changes I'm sure. We're the only team in the league that hasn't won a home game yet and that's disappointing for our fans and for our organization."
Could defensemen Kevin Knopp, recently acquired from Richmond, be part of the solution? Coach Townshend seems to believe so. "Hopefully he's going to be one of those guys that isn't going to hold the puck for longer than three seconds [laughs]. I'm hoping he'll be the type of player that we can definitely rely on. He's got a lot of experience so, hey, we'll see, we'll see."
In other comments, Townshend shelled out some praise and took some blame while explaining the action in the third period. "Chris Brassard works his tail off and he's producing. Every game he produces for this team and he was frustrated. It probably wasn't the best time to fight because we're down by two and he's our leading scorer [laughs], but it was frustration." He pointed out that Roanoke was smart to goad Brassard and others to get them off the ice while they had a two goal lead, "Very very smart." Townshend complimented Rob Sandrock and defended him for the play preceding Roanoke's fifth goal. "I'm happy with the way Rob Sandrock's playing. By the way, that fifth goal they scored, I'll take the blame for that. I told Rob Sandrock to just go for it tonight, we were down and he had to go for it. I gave him the green light and, hey, when you rush the puck you're going to make a mistake once in a while. That's what happens, you give the puck up. It's not his fault at all, he was trying to do what I asked him to do. "
ECHL.com listed tonight's attendance at 4098. The crowd was fairly active and most hung around until the final second ticked off the clock, perhaps because of the rock concert post-game party. Team co-owner Art Donaldson was, however, conspicuous in his absence.