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Lions coach pulls the plug on pre-season to refocus his team

The Halifax Lions are one big mystery — to everyone but head coach and general manager Troy Ryan.

The Halifax Lions are one big mystery — to everyone but head coach and general manager Troy Ryan.

Ryan pulled the Lions off the ice for the Maritime Junior A Hockey League pre-season to focus on off-ice team-building exercises and a heavy on-ice practice schedule.

“People think I’m absolutely crazy for doing it, but I saw practice time as more valuable,” said Ryan, a veteran coach who joined the Lions in the off-season. “We’ve been on the ice for two hours a day, gone to Steak and Stein for meals, did a scavenger hunt downtown, just trying to build the team.”

Ryan said his team is probably “sick of hearing from me and sick of practising” and hopes his players come out in tomorrow’s 7 p.m. season-opener at the Halifax Forum against the Campbellton Tigers and “show they’re sick of it.”

Halifax Mooseheads draft choice Kody Blois will get a chance to be the starting goalie, while former Cape Breton Screaming Eagles blueliner and Kyle Mariani will anchor the defence corps. Travis Perry, a two-time 20-goal scorer with the Dieppe Commandos, and Stuart Lenehan, a former Cole Harbour McCains star, will be among the go-to offensive players.

“We will be as quick as any team in the league,” Ryan said. “We might not have the biggest physical presence or be the top-scoring team, but teams will have a hard time skating with us if we bring the work ethic on a regular basis.”

Ryan has said he wants to change the culture of the franchise, which finished last in the Bent Division last season with 10 wins in 54 games. His goal is to make the second round of the playoffs, but making the playoffs is the bare minimum.

“We have to make the playoffs,” Ryan said. “I wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think we could. It’s a realistic goal.”

 
 
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