A rocky start has left the Panthers sitting bottom of the group on 2 points, but in a press conference on Thursday 8 April, Wallace said that he was pleased with how his team were settling into the system, and maintains that this tournament is still very much anyone’s for the taking.
Asked about his take on how important the victory over the Manchester Storm could be going forward, Wallace responded: “I wasn’t too focused on that [getting the result], but we needed the first one.
“It’s just like when guys need their first goal, it lets you breathe a little bit. But personally, I was just focused on every little thing in the game of hockey, making sure they were ready, making sure they were on the same page and looking back, yeah, it’s a big win. So, it’s one, hopefully we keep rolling.”
I think you need a lot of luck with injuries and guys staying healthy
– Tim Wallace
The series so far has been an exciting display of hockey, and in a tournament where all the teams seem so evenly matched, Wallace was in agreement that it is still very much anyone’s title for the taking, and the victor will be decided by a number of factors.
“I think it comes down to who’s playing the best come playoff time. I think you need a lot of luck with injuries and guys staying healthy, and the team gelling and liking each other, having a good relationship and chemistry off the ice.
“It’s up for grabs, and every team is really good, so it’s been exciting.”
On the chemistry of his squad, the American head coach did note that there was still some work to be done on the relationship of his players off the ice, and though he’s doing everything he can, it’s ultimately up to his team to build those relationships to help them on the ice.
“Normally, it could take months [for relationships to form between the players], and that’s how long our series is… So everybody’s got to do their thing and communicate within their line and within their D pairing.
“I’ll do what I can to show individual video on the little things and systems… It’s up to them to get to know each other on and off the ice and then produce.”
I think the two goalies and everyone being on the same page has a lot to do with it
– Tim Wallace
Although they sit bottom of the group in the current standings, the Panthers do boast the best defensive record of any team so far. Wallace puts this down to the hard work of his goalies and defenders, and believes that they can build on their sturdy defence to make more chances at the other end of the ice.
“Everybody’s been focusing on our end and you know, if we do that, hopefully the goals will come.
“I kind of focus on the D zone and what to do in certain situations, and when that comes naturally, and they protect the house, then hopefully the goals come.
“I think the two goalies and everyone being on the same page has a lot to do with it.”
Moving forward, then, the Panthers boss is hopeful about his team’s prospects, and believes in their ability to drive them further on in this competition.
“I’m optimistic. I think we’ve got a great group. Besides the little blip where I was on the chair in my hotel room, we’ve played good hockey. So, I’m confident, I believe in this group, and we’re going to keep rolling.”
We had a good practice today, we’re going to have a little lighter one tomorrow, and then it’ll start heating up game day
– Tim Wallace
The Panthers face their rivals, the Sheffield Steelers, for a second time on Saturday 10th, and will be looking to claim their revenge after their 3-2 defeat last time around. Wallace was in good spirits ahead of the clash:
“[I’m] feeling good. It’s going to be exciting. You know, they beat us 3-2, I think we played well that game. It’s another Saturday against a rival, so we’re excited. We had a good practice today, we’re going to have a little lighter one tomorrow, and then it’ll start heating up game day.
“It should be a lot of fun for us and the fans.”
On a final note, the former NHLer remained tight-lipped when asked about potential tactical shakeups going forward, though he did acknowledge Brett Perlini’s return to the side, after he was given the all-clear to fly back to the UK.
“We should have Perlini in, so that’s kind of a shakeup, but that’s all I can really talk about.”
Panthers will be looking forward to Saturday’s clash, and with the return of Perlini, the fans have every reason to be hopeful about this tournament going forward, so long as things continue to gel on and off the ice.