This week’s interview is with Anchorage Igloos coach Sam Castor.
SHL Digest: Hello, Coach Castor. Are you excited that the SHL’s new season is here?
Sam Castor: Absolutely! During the offseason, I get bored and irritable. It’s hard for me to sleep. During the season, that’s when I feel normal.
SHLD: Glad the season is back, then! So, it seems like everyone’s assuming it’s going to be you and Michigan for the Western division.
SC: I don’t assume that at all.
SHLD: You don’t?
SC: Nope. I mean, Michigan’s going to be a tough competitor, for sure. But Dakota got a lot better this offseason, and Seattle’s looked surprisingly competitive this week. I don’t automatically assume it’s going to be Michigan or us.
SHLD: Fair enough. But Michigan won the division – and the Vandy – last year. The year before, it was you guys. I know you’d like to take it back.
SC: No question about that.
SHLD: So if you are going to win it all again, what will you need to do to beat Michigan and the rest of your competition?
SC: For us, the key is going to be balance. The Wolves have a great goalie in [Dirk] Lundquist and a top-notch defense, and that’s their game and their identity. Us, on the other hand, we try to be equally strong on both ends. That allows us to match any style of play that we have to face.
SHLD: Are there particular players that you’re looking for to step up and take you to the next level?
SC: Offensively, obvious Jake [Frost] is our catalyst, but we’re looking at our secondary options taking on more of the load. Jerry [Koons] has really done great so far. Les [Collins] has been getting better every season. Ben Summers got off to a great start before he got hurt. Those are the guys we’re looking for to come up big.
SHLD: And on defense?
SC: We have a new third pairing this year; Sebastian [Pomfret] promoted off the bench and then the rookie, Tony Citrone. In our system, all three of our lines get plenty of playing time, so we’re counting on them to get up to speed quickly. If they can do that, we’re going to be deep and dangerous from top to bottom. Overall, I like out chances.
SHLD: Getting back to you and Michigan for a second, the rivalry even extends to your mascots. Do you expect any further hostilities between Petey the Polar Bear and Wally Wolf?
SC: Nah, I don’t think so. Ever since they buried the hatchet back at the end of ’15, they’ve actually become close. They exchange Christmas cards and everything. They’re cool now.
SHLD: So, is it safe to day we’re not expecting any polar-bear-themed mishaps this season?
SC: I think that’s a pretty safe assumption. Although you never know… some idiot on another team might decide to take a poke at Petey, and none of us are gonna stand for that.
SHLD: One challenge that your Igloos face that’s different from the rest of the league is travel. You guys spend more time on planes that any other team in the league. The closest road city is Seattle, which is almost 1,500 miles away. Does that put you at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the league?
SC: Yeah, I suppose so. But we aren’t looking for excuses. When other teams fly out to play us, they’re at a disadvantage. The travel wears on us sometimes, but we’re professionals and we’re here to do a job. That’s where our focus is.
SHLD: Makes sense! Well, good luck the rest of the season, Coach.
SC: Thanks, it was a pleasure.