New Yellowstone Quake coach Brad Zangs wants his team to play with urgency, which was on display in the Quake’s preseason games.
The team scored 26 goals in five games, winning four of them.
“What I’m looking for is guys to play as a unit,” Zangs said. “To win something you have to play as a family. I’ve been around three national titles, you have to have a family atmosphere. I want an up tempo team. We stress urgency and we stress, ‘Don’t give them time and space.’ That’s a big key for me.”
Zangs, from Rosemount, Minn., replaces Joe Cardarelli, who led the Quake to a third place league finish last season.
Zangs has more than 20 years of coaching experience and was the head coach of the Sioux Lookout Flyers last year, leading them to a franchise best season.
The second major changes will be the Quake’s opponents this year. The team is no longer playing in the Northern Pacific Hockey League (NORPAC) and will be playing in the American West Hockey League (AWHL).
Billings, Helena, Mont., Bozeman and Missoula, Mont., moved from NORPAC to the AWHL last season. Gillette, Glacier, Mont., and Great Falls, Mont., are also in the AWHL.
The league is broken down into two divisions, Lewis Clark and Big Sky. The Quake are in the Big Sky division with Great Falls, Missoula and Billings.
The Quake defeated Billings 7-2 and Missoula 6-4 in a preseason tournament.
They then returned home for two exhibition games against Gillette last weekend and outscored the Wild 11-6 in two games, winning both (5-4, 6-2).
“We’re fast, we can use that to our advantage and bury a lot of teams that way,” said forward Michael Berens, who had a hat trick in the first game against Gillette.
Zangs said he went after certain players to put together this season’s team, which includes 10 players from his home state of Minnesota.
He wanted a strong top line, which has played well with speed throughout the preseason games.
“We’re definitely conditioned,” forward Orri Haman said. “Brad got us here a week or two earlier than most teams and it’s definitely paying off right now.”
Zangs said it’s still early and “you don’t win a championship now, you win it at the end of the year,” but winning the league and making it to the national tournament is on the players minds.
“Our goal is to go to the national tournament and that only goes through hard work,” Berens said.
The Quake start the season at home against Missoula, with games on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.