Jewels from the Crown: Talk about the lift that Ryan Horvat brought to the team at the faceoff circle in Game Five. (JFTC Note: Horvat won 6 of 8 on Saturday night.)
Mike Stothers: Bronco did a real good job, considering he was off for quite some time. He's a strong kid. He starts leaning on his stick, it's hard to beat him.
JFTC: How important is it to have a guy like that on your team, who may not play a lot of minutes but is a proven winner? (Note: Horvat was Guelph's assistant captain from 2012-14.)
MS: There's a guy, he's on a team in junior in Guelph that goes to the Memorial Cup. Wins an [AHL] championship in his first year pro. So him and Augs, that's a huge accomplishment for them.
He's a little unheralded, what he brings to the team. He's gritty. He's hard to play against. He's versatile. He has no problem with his role, whether it's taking an important faceoffs for us or playing on the wing. If there's somebody he feels needs to be addressed on the other team, he's willing to step up for his teammates.
But he can play. He kills penalties. He's fearless, he's a shot blocker.
So he's one of those guys that every coach and every teammate likes to have. And again, he goes under the radar, goes about his business. He doesn't need much fanfare. He doesn't need all the accolades that go along with it. He's just a guy who comes in and punches in everyday and gives you everything he's got. I
t's a real credit to him. Obviously a credit to his upbringing. His parents have done a good job. He's a good person.
JFTC: How satisfying has it been to go from Guelph to the Calder Cup last year and now to Ontario with so many former teammates and Chris Hajt? (Note: Horvat played with Justin Auger, Zac Leslie, and Nick Ebert in Guelph, while Hajt was the Storm's Assistant GM.)
Ryan Horvat: It's been awesome. Obviously, having guys you played with in the past makes it a lot easier to fit in and adapt to a new team.
JFTC: One of those Guelph teammates, Kerby Rychel, is a big part of Lake Erie. What do you expect to see out of him in this series?
RH: Doing pre-scout, I know that he can take shots from everywhere. He's a hard player to play against down low. Things like that. I don't think much has changed, obviously he's a better player, going from Guelph to pro.
JFTC: You and Auger used to be linemates on the Storm. Can you talk about how his game has grown from Guelph to now? (Note: They are also roommates and enjoy a true "bromance.")
RH: I think he just put extra work in the summers and things like that, doing the right things off the ice. Making sure he's going to shooting camps and all the skating things and things like that. He's grown into his body, kind of getting more comfortable.
RH: He meant a lot. Obviously, him passing away last year took a big hit on me. But I knew he's up top and kind of looking over me, kind of helped me out, pushed me in my head, things like that. From when I met him to how he helped me as a person, in the gym, and things like that, he did a great job.
JFTC: How is he still impacting your life?
RH: I still work out in the gym that he had. His wife still has it. I work out there in the summers. He's still a part of my life, definitely.
JFTC: Why does Stutts call you "Bronco"?
RH: Bill Stewart in Guelph, he called me Bronco because of Bronco Horvath, who played in Boston a long time ago. It's actually my middle name as well. I kind of brought it here, and Stuttsy took it over. It's been good. It's a good little name. Because a lot of guys, you have Forby and Horvy...Bronco is a little bit easier.
JFTC: Your middle name, is that because of that player too?
RH: No, that's my name from my grandfather.
JFTC: How did your grandfather acquire such a nickname?
RH: No, it's his first name. So I'm Croatian, and that's a common, typical name. It's B-R-A-N-K-O.
JFTC: B-R-A-N...oh, like Branko Radivojevič!
RH: Yeah, yeah. (laughs)
JFTC: Do you approach a faceoff slump like a goalscoring slump? Just keep doing the right thing & good things will happen? Or is there a different approach?
Nic Dowd: I think it's a mix. I think they're a little different. Goal scoring, I think guys have been playing the game their whole life, so what got him here isn't something you need to go in and change and re-invent the rules. With faceoffs, I think it's a bit more technical...
Watch video on guys, every player has a tendency that can be picked apart, and you can use that against them.
JFTC: You mentioned struggling against San Diego until Game Five. Did you turn to video mid-series to see how to match up with Chris Wagner and Matt Bailey?
ND: Not as much watching tape. I have done that in the past. Just realizing who you're going up against each time, and during the game, it only takes about a couple faceoffs to realize what they're going to be doing for the game.
I'm sure he felt the same way about me. I don't change it up too much.
JFTC: So by Game Five, you had a better sense of what to expect from them? (Note: Dowd won 14 of 24 draws in Game Five after winning just 46% to start the series.)
ND: Exactly. It's also about timing, and sometimes, your timing on the faceoff dot is better on other nights.
JFTC: How would you evaluate your play since you've come back from LA? To me, you've had more jump.
ND: In the beginning, I probably took too many risks offensively. Trying to do too much, expecting too much out of my game. I think Stuttsy has done a good job of showing me that, putting it out in the open, and allowing me to fix it.