During the 2015 – 2016 season, the Tri-City Outlaws captured the final seed in the Northern Pacific Hockey League’s 2016 playoffs. This playoff berth for the Outlaws effectively ended the team’s one-year postseason drought. But this isn’t just about ending a drought. It’s about who ended the drought.
Geno McCue walked into the season as the Outlaws’ new head coach. McCue had a stellar résumé and he was looking to turn the program around. Well, McCue did just that. He was able to take this 12-man roster and put them into the position of capturing the final seed in the NPHL’s 2016 playoffs.
Looking back at the season, McCue said, “I came into this season with two goals. I wanted to make these guys at least a .500 team and make the playoffs. So, I only got one out of the two, but we will move forward from here. For the kids who have been around the program for the last couple of years, I know it was a fun season for them. More fun then they’ve probably had during the past few seasons.”
Making the playoffs in any league for any sport is hard. In order to make the playoffs, teams need to constantly refine themselves throughout the season, while also making the necessary adjustments. McCue discussed what obstacles his team had to overcome to reach the playoffs. He said, “one of the biggest obstacles I faced as a coach was getting the guys to understand that there’s more than just hockey. That your actions do carry weight. Whether it’s being in school and doing well, or meeting the time requirements.”
Transitioning from coaches can be a hard adjustment for some players. But after McCue put the program on the right path, everything started trending upward. McCue said, “once we got consistent numbers with the kids we had playing, they really contributed and grew as a team and individuals.”
After McCue and the players found their consistency, four players led the league in scoring, while another player – Nick Gay – signed with a Division III college for next season. Aaron Questad, one of the Outlaws’ forwards, finished second in the league with 64 total points. Then Colton Symbol, Adam Shimamoto, and Payton Okon all closely followed Questad in scoring with 61, 56, and 56 points respectively.
Being able to make it back to the playoffs for any program is most certainly a foundation to build upon. Not just for the program’s history or reputation, but for recruiting as well. Having the ability to show that a team is a playoff contender only heightens potential players’ interest.
McCue recognized this and said, “for the program, making it back to the postseason will be a building block. We can use this for recruiting. Obviously we are going against five other teams in the recruiting trail. So now the question is, ‘what will separate us from the other programs?’ This could be one of those things.”
Heading into next season, the Outlaws’ will look to continue to build the program to McCue’s coaching philosophy. McCue said, “my entire coaching philosophy is, part to whole. You have to break apart every aspect of everything you do, then you must build it up and continuously add on to the team.”
McCue did have some final thoughts for the season. He said, “it was a satisfying season. I would have liked to be more competitive in our playoff series. I think we could have done a better job. That leaves a sour taste in our mouths that we must work on and get past next year. It leaves you hungry and wanting to go out and succeed.”
The Outlaws’ assistant captain, Adam Shimamoto, also weighed in on how the season turned out, but from a player’s perspective. Shimamoto said, “this year was definitely a great year under coach McCue. With this being his first year as the head coach of the Outlaws, he did a great job with all of us. He solidified us as a team.”
Shimamoto continued, “overall, there were a lot of good things that came from this season. For starters, making the playoffs was a huge statement because we didn’t make the playoffs last year. Then there was great team and individual improvement. Everyone improved a lot throughout the season and our future looks bright as a program. Geno and Jordan have done great things for us and the organization. They’ve really turned things around from last year and I can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done.”
With the Outlaws’ offseason well underway, fans will have to wait a few more months before seeing the Outlaws take the ice again. But rest assured, time will fly by until the NPHL’s 2016 – 2017 season. As the program heads further into the offseason, keep an eye on announcements such as tryouts and main camps!
Tune in to the NPHL’s website for news about what is happening within the league!
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