Elite League: Finnerty credits players’ hard work

“It’s been a while since I had a group like this” says Storm Head Coach

After a slow start to the season, Manchester Storm have made a statement of intent in the last week. Games against Belfast, Nottingham and Sheffield saw the Storm win three of four – wins against the latter two putting them well back in contention to advance from their Challenge Cup group.

Ryan Finnerty probably couldn’t be happier with the recent run? ”I’d be happier if we’d won all four,” joked the Storm Head Coach to begin with. “But I think our team has kind of come into their own. We’ve been finding ways to win hockey games. You have to remember that we’re a young group, and it’s been a bit of a hill to get to this point where they realise what is needed to win games, but they work extremely hard. I knew it was only a matter of times before we got rewarded, but we kept things positive and focussed on both what we’re doing well and where we needed to improve. The buy-in form the players has been incredible.”
He continued: “I think, if you take away some of the empty net goals, we’d only lost all but one game by a single goal, so there wasn’t any panic or screaming, and we took more of a methodical approach. We needed to identify the areas that needed improving, because I felt like we were 90% of the way there, so we talked within the group about how to find that next bit. In Nottingham this week we came from behind and then managed to win in overtime which was really good. Overall I’m just really happy for our group; they work so hard and being a young group it’s great to see how excited they are when they get rewarded with wins.”
There are a lot of new faces at the Storm Shelter, what’s it like to coach a new group and especially one so young? “I think we’re pretty much like an expansion team this year! We only had three players coming back from last season, and one of those was the goalie,” explained Finnerty. “With an almost entirely new squad it takes some time, especially as we have a lot of first year pros. A lot of them are looking to the more experienced players like Jared Aulin, Dallas Ehrhardt, John Negrin and Layne Ulmer when things aren’t going well. For me it has been a while since I’ve had a group that works this hard, and cares this much to compete and win. The guys are demanding more and more of themselves.”
The back line of the Storm is again Matt Ginn, who is already up in the Top 5 performing goalies despite the team’s slower start. “It’s no secret that you need a good goalie to win games, and we think we’ve got the best one – he certainly gives us a chance to win every night,” said the Storm Head Coach. “We know we need to be solid and structured but were lacking a bit of offense. Guys have started finding the net though, our powerplay went dry for a little but we’re starting to create more chances again. Our goal is to be hard to play against, and opportunistic.”
Storm raised some eyebrows being in the likes of Aulin and Ulmer, how did these players get brought to Manchester? “All western Canadian guys seems to know each other, despite never meeting. Everyone knows someone who knows someone else that was at the Stampede!” joked Finnerty. “That’s more or less how it happened, and obviously I’ve known Layne a long time and I tried to sign him in Glasgow. It’s a unique situation to reunite hum and his sister in the same city, and that’s special for them.”
The win in Nottingham brought the Storm well back in to contention to not just qualify from their cup group, but maybe top it – something Finnerty and his squad are looking at. “We didn’t start well but have worked ourselves now into a position to potentially finish top of the group. A lot of credit goes to my players – there’s been a lot of talk about the Challenge Cup format, but our job is to show up and play hockey,” he explained. “No matter if it’s a playoff game or exhibition, it doesn’t matter and you just don’t switch on and off, the professional game doesn’t work like that. We want to keep our momentum going and no matter what it might mean to others the Challenge Cup means everything to us.”