A five-game losing streak had Youngstown Phantoms coach Anthony Noreen looking for a way to snap his team out of its funk. So he reached out to someone who knows a thing or two about what it takes to win at the highest level — St. Louis Blues assistant coach Ray Bennett.
Bennett, whose son Kale is a first-year defenseman for the Phantoms, has more than a decade of experience behind NHL benches with St. Louis and Los Angeles Kings. Last season, he helped the Blues rebound from a 6-7-0 start to second-place finish in the NHL’s Western Conference.
Under normal circumstances, Bennett would be preoccupied with his own players, but with the NHL lockout in its sixth week, he was able to pay a visit to the Phantoms (4-5-0, 8 points) ahead of their Friday faceoff with the USHL Western Conference-leading Lincoln Stars (6-0-0, 12 points) at the Covelli Centre.
“Ray’s been in for a number of games, but it was the first time we really utilized him as a resource [in practice],” Noreen said after Wednesday’s session.
Bennett joined the Phantoms on the ice, lending a hand with drills and working with Noreen and the coaching staff. Prior to taking the ice, however, he spoke to the team in the locker room.
The subject? What it takes to be a pro.
“He said, ‘There are a lot of guys that have made a lot of money playing the game for a long time that aren’t pros, and there are a lot of guys that maybe haven’t got the glitz and glamour, but they’re pros because of how they act and approach the game,’ ” Noreen said. “The things he said hold true whether you’re playing in the NHL or Mite hockey, or anything in between.”
Bennett’s message certainly resonated with assistant captain JT Stenglein. The third-year winger said that, given the team’s recent struggles, it could provide a boost when they take the ice tonight.
“It was good to kind of see his perspective on things and get his words of wisdom, especially when we’re going through a tougher time,” Stenglein said. “It was definitely good to get him out here and motivate everybody to work a lot harder knowing you’ve got NHL eyes on you.”
The goal, Stenglein said, would be to ensure he and his teammates take Bennett’s advice to heart, not just during the game, but also during practice and during off-ice preparation.