Life moved fast for Zach Ziegler this week and it culminated in a win for his Nipawin Hawks Friday night.
The defenceman from White City, Sask. played two games for the Nipawin Hawks as a 17-year-old back in 2016-17, before spending the next two seasons with the Lloydminster Bobcats of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
Ziegler played for the Bobcats as recently as Wednesday, Jan. 9, before head coach Travis Clayton informed him that he was traded to the Hawks. It's a move Ziegler had a gut feeling would happen.
“I had a good feeling that Doug was going to try and acquire me when I was told I was going to get traded,” Ziegler told northeastNOW. “I came here and it was a pretty quick turnaround. I got into the line-up, got to get out here with the guys and meet them, and we got a big win tonight.”
A big win indeed. The Hawks rebounded from a 4-1 loss to Flin Flon earlier in the week with a 3-1 win over the Humboldt Broncos.
Doug Johnson, the Hawks head coach, has been shuffling his forward lines to begin 2019. One forward duo he hasn’t changed yet has been the fourth line with Brodie Girod and Michael Makarenko. Girod showed great speed and edge skating before his rebound went to Logan Moon for the Hawks first goal in the second period. Makarenko did the same in transition to feed Girod for the game-winning goal in the third.
“They work incredibly hard,” Johnson said. “Brodie’s a very smart hockey player and they complement each other. Michael kind of just chases the puck, and Brodie works hard and can understand, and read off of Michael. They feed off each other very well, they complement each other very well, and the biggest thing is they play with so much energy.
Overall, Johnson said he liked his team’s overall game but they need to be better with the little things on Saturday, Jan. 12 in Humboldt.
“It’s a win and that’s great, it’s tough to win hockey games in this league but at the end of the day we need to compete hard and do a lot more little things right than we did tonight. We didn’t win many one-on-one battles, we didn’t get pucks deep, and I thought our breakouts were a little slow at times where it allowed their [defence] to pinch down on us.
“We just need to play at a faster place.”
When asked about Ziegler’s first game back with the Hawks, Johnson said his game was good and what the coaching staff expected of him, noting his hockey intelligence, puck handling, and edge skating.
Johnson said as soon as Ziegler becomes more familiar with the Hawks systems it’ll make things better for him, although it appears he’s already figured out how to get along with his teammates.
During my conversation with Ziegler postgame, Hawks goaltender and part-time drop-in news reporter Patrick Pugliese dropped a burning question.
“Who are your three stars?” he asked him.
Awarding teammates after one game and trying to remember their names after one day proved to be only a small challenge for Ziegler.
Just like how Johnson was impressed with Ziegler stepping into the line-up after a day of travelling and not knowing the systems, he was impressive with his star selections, memory, and reasoning.
“I've got to think of names here,” Ziegler said. “Puggy… Puggy… Pugliese! Yeah him! I’m going to start with him, he helped me out there on that penalty shot [in the second] so I’m going to go with him. I thought Trembs (Jake Tremblay) had a good game following up with that fight [in the third], and I think (Austen) Flaman stood out to me tonight as well; he was in the right place at the right time. Got to go with those three guys.”
One day with the new team and he has nicknames and real names memorized. Johnson should feel optimistic about Ziegler picking up on his systems.
On Twitter: @SchulzePANow
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