Tonawanda News — When the Kenmore West hockey team finished last season without a single win (0-19), there weren’t a lot of smiles visible in the Blue Devils’ locker room.
New Ken West coach Tim Knight knew it was time for a culture change when he took over the job, and it started with getting everybody on the team to buy into a system devised to help the Blue Devils find success.
“We determined that instead of having a system for the sake of having a system we wanted to play to our kid’s strengths,” Knight said. “This year we’re young and we have a lot of 10th and 11th graders — there’s only three seniors. There’s not a whole lot of experience out there so we wanted to put them in a system where they can be successful. That involves extremely hard work and we try to teach the kids that everyone has a role.”
The changes have made a big difference and the Blue Devils enter the playoffs — tonight at 7:30 p.m. against Grand Island — after an 8-12 season and are looking for their first post season win in five years.
The on-ice changes have paid off, but Knight said there are two catalysts behind the team’s resurgence: defenseman Tommy Ryan and goalkeeper Sean Guetti.
Ryan is a senior and the team’s leading scorer at his position on the blue line, notching 8 goals and 11 assists. Guetti said Ryan has a rifle of a slap shot and his experience allows him to impact the game on defense and offense.
Knight said Ryan is a special kind of athlete.
“Tommy just does what Tommy Ryan does, he’s just an amazing athlete,” Knight said. “He recently was named to the small school All-Fed team. It’s a pretty big accomplishment because there is only two defensemen that get nominated for it.”