Ice Hawks looking to fix penalty kill

Rochester Ice Hawks coach Nick Fatis will undergo a minor heart procedure Monday, but he hopes to rejoin the team the following weekend.

That means Fatis still is out for this weekend's home game against the Maple Grove Energy. Dodge County boys head coach and Ice Hawks assistant Eric Hofmann will man the head-coaching gig for at least one more weekend.

Fatis said he's been grateful for Hofmann's help, starting all the way back in October. Hofmann has helped run the team's morning practices.

Hofmann said he's enjoying his time with the team.

"Coach Fatis is basically day-to-day while he's resting up, trying to get his body healthy," Hofmann said. "It's been great being back with the team. I've really enjoyed helping out. ... It was funny, one of the players asked me if I was nervous on the bench (Saturday). And I really wasn't, not at all. I'm pretty comfortable there, and I feel like the players are comfortable with me."


Close, but...

Hofmann and the Ice Hawks will look to bounce back from last weekend's 5-4 loss to the Steele County Blades.

The Ice Hawks fell behind 5-2 in the third period. They attempted a rally behind a couple of Vinnie Susi goals, but the rally fell short.

"The boys had their moments, and they were battling," Hofmann said. "But it was just kind of too little, too late. We had that nice little flurry, but we needed that to come earlier. We didn't have enough in the tank to finish the comeback."

Both of Susi's goals came on slap shots from the point. The offense from the blue line was a bonus, Hofmann said.

"When you get goals from the aerial attack, up by the blue line, that's always a nice little thing to have in the arsenal," Hofmann said.

Turn it around

Hofmann said the team's biggest issue right now is its penalty kill. The Ice Hawks gave up three more power-play goals Saturday.


But it's not a new problem, Hofmann said.

"I think Saturday, there was a lack of physical play from us," Hofmann said. "In this league and at this level, you can't get away with that. You have to have a physical presence. ... But the penalty kill, that's where we're falling behind. You can't give up three power-play goals, you just can't. Fixing that has been one of our biggest focuses in practice."

Another big one

The Ice Hawks face another big game at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Rochester Recreation Center. They host Maple Grove Energy.

The Energy come to town with a 28-8-0-1 record, sitting in second place in the Minnesota Junior Hockey League standings. The Energy are the only MnJHL team the Ice Hawks haven't defeated this season.

"Any time you're playing someone above you in the standings, it's a big game," Hofmann said. "This one is really big because it's a team we haven't beaten. Winning this one shows the guys that they can skate with any team in the league. That can give us a lot of confidence heading into the playoffs."

Getting healthy

The Ice Hawks are as close to "healthy" as they've been all season. They'll be without Mike Kelly and coach Fatis, however, the rest of the team likely will be available. Ludo Duncko missed some practice this week with a lower-body injury, but Hofmann said it likely won't keep him out of action.


"Yeah, this is as healthy as we've been in months," Hofmann said. "It's a good time for that to happen."

Even with a full roster, Saturday will be an uphill battle.

"The Ducks are the most talented team in the league, but Maple Grove is very, very deep," Hofmann said. "They're good in all three zones. We can't make many mistakes against them, or they're going to capitalize."

Goalies Rainer Londino-Green, Corey Grummick and Brandan Alcorn all are available for Saturday's game, but Hofmann said no decision has been made regarding the starting netminder.

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