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Q & A with Head Coach Alex Loh

Friday, April 24th
Q & A with Head Coach Alex Loh

Earlier this week we had the opportunity to sit down with Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations Alex Loh.  We discussed a wide range of topics, went in depth about last season and what to expect from the team moving forward.

The 2019-20 Season had big expectations.  The roster looked to be loaded and expectations were sky high.  What went wrong?

We were very excited with our group to start the year. We had loads of talent and felt like we could make a big run. Unfortunately it didn’t go our way as we lost a few keys players very early.

What was the impact of losing Shane Conacher to a career ending injury in the first game of the season?

I don’t think it can be overstated how much losing Shane hurt our team, both on and off the ice. He is an extremely talented player, which would have helped us win a few more games. Off the ice, he was popular in the room and did a great job of bringing the group together.

The Thunder have traditionally had an excellent home record.  What happened last season?

That was a tough one this year. It was difficult to identify just one issue. Pretty much every game was very close, one goal with lots of OT/SO games. It’s certainly something we’ll address in the off season to make sure we are much better next season. I think in the end it comes down to preparation and too many times we just weren’t ready to go.

We lost a few key players to long-term injuries this season.  Michael Sdao and Conor Riley specifically.  What impact of losing them hurt the most?

I think the area where we missed Conor and Michael the most was their leadership in the room and on the bench during games. They are both respected by everyone and help bring the group together and set the tone on how we want to play. Missing them both was frustrating for both them and the team.

We have passionate fans that are active on social media.  What do you say to these fans after a difficult season?

I am thrilled that we have such a passionate fan base. Social media is an excellent way for them together and share their passion. I completely understand their frustration and I am more frustrated than they are with how things played out this year. It’s certainly more than enough motivation to correct things moving forward so we can be successful in the 2020-21 season.

You always seem pretty calm on the bench.  Is that the case?  

I know I appear calm on the outside but it’s definitely not the case on the inside. I try not to get too high or low on the bench so the players stay calm and collected. I get much more animated in the locker room however. I think that may change a bit this season though. Sometimes it’s good to let it out a bit more.

We hear our fans wanting more of a physical game and toughness.  Do you think we have enough of a physical presence this past season?  What do you think is needed going forward in this department?

At the beginning of the season I believe we had the team toughness we needed. Unfortunately losing Michael Sdao and Conor Riley lowered our team toughness level for a large portion of the season. I think there is a place in the game for toughness and we’ll make sure to address it moving forward with the right mix of players that can handle that side of the game but are also skilled enough to contribute the rest of the time.

Can you bring in a player that is an “enforcer” with the roster limits and only dressing 16 skaters per game?

I don’t believe you can. Every player needs to be able to contribute more than just fighting. That’s why you need to find guys that can do both. Alex Carrier and Michael Sdao are good examples of both.

Can you explain your thought process on keeping only two goaltenders knowing you may lose a goalie to a call-up at any moment?

We are really only able to keep two goaltenders as they count towards our 22 man roster limit. In order to keep depth at all positions we can only have two. Also, for practices, three goalies is very disruptive. The goalies don’t like it because they aren’t able to get as many shots.

The Power Play declined this past season after being in the top 3 in the ECHL the last two seasons.  What changed last season?

The power play this season was frustrating. A few times during the season I looked back to compare and we actually generated more scoring chances this season. We struggled to convert our chances to get the goals we needed.

Describe the 11 game winless streak in terms of team morale and how the coaches and the locker room handled it?

I feel like the guys handled it as well as could have been hoped. Obviously we were all frustrated especially since we were so close so often. We didn’t win in 11 games but we had points in 6 of them, which shows we were so close. Unfortunately we weren’t able to score the timely goal or get the big save when we needed it during that stretch.

We heard the past 2 seasons how tight the Locker Room was.  How was this past year and did losing a Peter MacArthur or past leaders hurt the “room”?

The players were tight again this year, it was just a different mix. Any time you lose leaders like Peter and Brian Ward, it’s going to affect the group. I thought the guys managed it well and kept the group together.

The ECHL has a salary cap.  Do you spend to the Cap or have the ability to spend to the cap?

Yes, we are fortunate to have the support of the coalition to spend to the cap.

How are affiliated players that on an AHL or NHL contracts handled in regards to the Salary Cap.

AHL/NHL Contracts are paid by their affiliated teams and count towards our cap at $525 per week.

Describe Pete Dineen’s role with the team specifically.  How did his past professional career help you and the team?

Pete is our associate coach who handles the defensemen, PK, and various other duties we need on the administrative side. His experience as a player helps because he is able to convey what it’s like to be in the locker room and in the “battle”.  Plus he’s always good for a story or two.

Describe Joe Patterson’s role with the team specifically.  How does his past playing and coaching career help you and the team?

Joe is our assistant coach while we are at home. He watches the games from above and is able to give us feedback between periods. He also tracks face offs and scoring chances. He has invaluable experience as a head coach so he is a great mentor and sounding board for ideas on how to handle various parts of the game throughout the season.

We are the smallest market in the ECHL.  How do you see your role as the Head Coach/Director of Hockey Operations within the community?  What responsibility do the players have to the community?

We all have to promote the Thunder in the community any opportunity we have. We love our fans and the incredible support we get so the least we can do is return that support in any avenue that is needed, whether it’s at the hospital, schools, or any community event.

The Thunder had the largest crowd in years for Law Enforcement Night this past February.  When the players and coaches see the tremendous support of the community—how does this impact you and the team?

The energy in the building was incredible for that night. I know it gives the players an energy boost that helps fuel our effort. Any time the building is full, it’s an amazing atmosphere. Even opposing teams like playing with that amount of energy.

We know there is a lot of time on the bus getting from City to City.  How grueling is this past of the season?  What is the worst trip we make each season and why?  How does this affect our performance?

It’s certainly tough but we have Wi-Fi and movies, which helps the time pass. Also, every person has a full bench to themselves so we are able to get pretty comfortable. The trips to Brampton after we play at home are tough. With the bus ride and the border, we usually don’t get there until 5:30 or 6:00am. I think the effect is more mental than physical. It’s tough to be mentally sharp when we don’t have the ability to rest properly. That is something that I have made very clear to the league.

The season ended pretty abruptly due to the ECHL shutting down the season due to the Covid-19 Virus.  How did this affect you and the players?

I think the shock of it happening so quickly. We were preparing to go to Brampton and then you hear from the league that you shouldn’t go and 48 hours later you’re done. Usually you have some sense that things are wrapping up so you can prepare mentally. The bigger issue is the players missing out on at least two weeks of pay. The guys at our level don’t make much money so every penny counts. I know they understand why it had to be done this way but it doesn’t put money in your pocket. Luckily there are some efforts to help, like the ECHL Player Relief Fund.

What does the typical ECHL player do in the summer?  Jobs?  Training for next season?

Most players find jobs in the off season that allows them to balance training and skating with making a little money. Lots of guys do landscaping. A few of ours work at rinks, which allows them free ice time and keeps them connected to the game. It’s similar to the average college student, except they have to make time to keep their bodies in shape.

You have been in the Glens Falls area for 5 years now.  What are some of your favorite things to do when your schedule permits?

We love to get outdoors and enjoy everything the area has to offer. It’s such a great place to live and has tons to offer. We spend a lot of time walking around and at the beach in Lake George.

Tell us about yourself and your personal life.  Are you married?  Do you have children?

I am married with a daughter and we live up in Lake George. In my limited free time I like to get outside, as mentioned above, and also play golf. That is something that I have enjoyed my whole life. Both my wife and I are from Vermont, so it’s great to be able to get back there to spend time with family.

What is your message to our fan base for next season?

Last season was a disappointment and not acceptable.  We are going to work our tails off to construct a competitive team that defends our ice and gets back to the winning ways that we all have grown accustomed to.  We will be ready to go.

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at
Adirondack Thunder
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