The Anchorage Igloos had a brilliant run in 2017, seizing the division lead midway through the season and never looking back on the way to the Western title. But the Igloos suffered a stunning loss in the Finals to the Hershey Bliss, and they haven’t looked the same since. After slogging through an uninspired preseason, Anchorage has continued to underwhelm during the regular season. Over the last couple week, the Igloos’ play has taken a turn for the worse, to the point that coach Sam Castor took the rare step of publicly criticizing his team this week.
The Igloos are currently on a swing through the East, a trip that got off to a rough start. They opened their trip with back-to-back one-goal losses against the Bliss and Boston Badgers, the worst teams in the league. The next night, the Igloos put up a listless effort against the Hamilton Pistols, getting drilled 4-1. It was Anchorage’s fourth straight loss and the seventh in their last nine games. After the game, Castor stepped to the podium and roasted his team’s lack of effort.
“Look, I understand that the loss in the Finals was a blow,” said Castor. “It knocked us off our stride. But at some point we’ve got to put it behind us and move on. We haven’t looked like ourselves this season. We’re going through the motions. It feels like we’re taking the playoffs for granted. But if we keep playing this way, we might not even make the playoffs.”
Castor specifically criticized the team’s top line of LW Jerry Koons, C Jake Frost, and RW Nicklas Ericsson. “We rely on Koonsy, Frosty, and Nick to drive our offense,” the coach said. “This season, the feel hasn’t been there, the spark hasn’t been there. Our lower lines are doing their job, but the top line needs to take on more of the load.”
The coach also dinged his team’s play in its own end. “We’ve been sloppy and careless on defense,” said Castor. “It’s the little things, a sloppy pass to set up an easy chance, a missed check there, shying away from wall work, not clearing the dirty areas in front of the net. W’re giving up too many high-quality chances, and we’re getting burned.”
He concluded by saying, “The whole division is a traffic jam right now, except for Michigan. That’s a good thing for us, because it’s keeping us in the race. If the Shockers or Sailors go on a run, we could find ourselves in a hole quick. We’ve got time to pull it together, but probably not a lot of time.”
The Igloos largely agreed with Castor’s assessment. “We could all be doing better right now, starting with myself,” said Frost. “We’re too talented to be limping along the way we are. We can do better, and we need to start doing better.” Koons added, “It’s time for us to look in the mirror. We need to take the intensity level up a notch and get on a winning streak.”
Anchorage looked good in their next game, thrashing the New York Night 7-1 on Friday. But the Igloos closed out the week still below the .500 mark, tied with Saskatchewan for second place. “It’s a good win for us,” said Castor, “but one win doesn’t fix everything. We need to see this kind of performance night in and night out.”
Might Castor have spoken up because he’s starting to feel the heat? Despite the fact that he’s taken the Igloos to two Finals in three seasons and won the Vandy in 2015, some irate fans have been calling for the coach’s head. GM Will Thorndike shot down any rumors, though. “Sam’s not going anywhere,” Thorndike told reporters. “He’s a big reason why we’ve been as successful as we have. This is a bump in the road; it will pass.”