Coaching, culture change for Interlake Lightning

The Interlake Lightning provincial under-18 AAA hockey team will have a new coach for the 2019-20 season, hiring former Eastman Selects bench boss Scott Wong. (File photo: Adam Peleshaty/The Stonewall Argus and Teulon Times/Postmedia Network)

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It was a stormy season for the Provincial Under-18 AAA Interlake Lightning in 2018-19.

The team finished 11th out of 13 teams with a 10-34-4 record and missed the playoffs for the fifth time in six years. Head coach Jamie Corbett left the team mid-season to become head coach of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s OCN Blizzard and assistant coach Trent Genyk filled in on an interim basis. For a team which has accrued only 41 wins over the past four seasons, change was needed.

Scott Wong, the new head coach of the Lightning, hopes to spark that change. After being a part of the Eastman Selects minor hockey program for seven years, including the previous two as head coach of its under-18 provincial AAA team, he accepted Interlake’s offer and is excited about what the next chapter holds.

“What I really like is the fact that the board is very responsive and (it’s) there for you immediately,” Wong explained to The Interlake Spectator. “The program is changing and I was brought in to kind of help with that process.”

He also explained that bringing in new faces, primarily those who don’t have children playing in the program, can benefit a program like Interlake’s. Wong believes the Lightning are going in the right direction, pointing out that there were more than 40 players at the start of training camp, nearly twice as many as last year. He said that Interlake will be a team that is strong on offence, but needs work on defence.

“My team is going to be much more disciplined than they have in the past,” Wong added. “(There) are a lot of things I don’t tolerate and that is poor penalties or retaliation penalties. My team’s going to be hard-nosed, they’re going to win battles … and hopefully by Christmas time, we’ll still be in the running for one of those playoff spots.

“The whole thing’s a process. We’ll see how it works,” he said.

Unlike previous years, training camp has started in Lundar and will move around to Warren, Gimli and their home ice in Teulon. The Lightning will take part in the Southwest Cougars pre-season tournament in Souris starting with a game against Southwest on Sept. 13 and two games against the Yellowhead Chiefs and the Central Plains Capitals on Sept. 14.

Interlake opens their season in Dauphin against the Parkland Rangers on Sept. 28 and plays its first home game against the Kenora Thistles at Teulon-Rockwood Arena on Oct. 5 at 7:30 p.m.