Things are good and getting better by the week.
That’s how Rob Pozzebon described the 2021 Central Indiana Knights’ season through early February – and that’s an encouraging description.
“They’re a better team today than they were when we put them together in September,” Pozzebon said.
The Knights, a high school hockey team made up of players from Cathedral, Guerin, Noblesville and Park Tudor, annually contend for state titles. They have been in something of a transition in recent seasons, with Pozzebon the program’s third coach in as many seasons.
“It’s taken a little time for them to adapt to how I coach and how I want things done,” he said. “It’s a bit different to what they’ve had in the past. I’m having a blast. It’s been great. I’m super happy about coaching this team.
“The culture of the team is great. They’re good kids that work hard, that are respectful and like to have fun. It fits well with my personality. It’s been nice to coach.”
The Knights, after what Pozzebon described as a transition early in the season, were 12-16-2 through early February January – with about five weeks remaining in the regular season. They are led by a slew of core players from Cathedral, and Pozzebon said that core is providing necessary and valuable leadership through the first half of the season.
“We tend to have a lot of fun,” he said. “We know this isn’t a career choice for a lot of these kids. We keep it light; I joke with the kids and treat them with lots of respect. They tend to give me a lot of respect back, so it has been pretty good.”
Cathedral players leading the Knights include:
*Owen Wright, senior captain. Wright through 32 games had eight goals and eight assists. “He’s been great,” Pozzebon said. “He’s a good leader.” Pozzebon called Wright “an easy choice” for captain. “The coaches like him as that and the players like him as that,” Pozzebon said. “He’s playing some of his best hockey of the season right now.”
*Max Goodburn, a sophomore who Pozzebon called “A really good player.” Goodburn led the Knights in goals (19), assists (13) and points (32) though early February. “He’s a real nice player to have on the ice and have on your team,” Pozzebon said. “Every coach wants a kid like Max.”
*Jack Bedich and Grant Goodburn, freshmen. “They both are playing quite well,” Pozzebon said. “I’m super happy with their progress.” Grant Goodburn had three goals and three assists through early February and Bedich had three goals and four assists.
The Knights in Pozzebon’s first season have emphasized individual skill development, with an increased focus on playing more aggressive defensively and offensively.
“It’s a little departure philosophically from what they’re used to,” Pozzebon said. “It’s not the standard defensive zone coverage and standard offensive zone four attack. I asked the defenseman to be much more aggressive and to change from old-school approach to a new-school approach – how the game is played at the highest level.
“We’re just a pretty good defensive team. We keep the play in front of us. We try to eliminate the other teams’ strengths. We don’t score a ton of goals. I was told that was going to be the case early in the season and it has played out that way. We tend to play good defense and don’t give up a lot of goals. We try to take our opponents’ best capabilities, shut them down and make them play differently.
“When the kids trust that they can do that, we have good success.”
Pozzebon said he has challenged the team to play and practice like professionals and not go through the motions. In time, he said the players have started to correct their own mistakes – which Pozzebon said is a good sign they are adjusting to a new program.
“It has been a nice progression to this point,” he said.
And Pozzebon said as the season has continued, the team has continued to mesh and play as a unit – traits that bode well for the weeks to come as the postseason approaches.
“There were a couple of bumps early,” Pozzebon said. “The seniors in particular are used to a certain way. They’ve done things a certain way and in some respects they’ve waited for three years to be the seniors and to be the guys: ‘It’s been done this way in the past, so we’re going to do it this way again.’ With the transition, there were a few bumps, but they just had to learn to trust – trust each other, trust me and trust the new players. It took some time, but we’re playing some of our best hockey now.
“That’s the idea. It seems we’re heading in that direction. I think our best games are ahead of us and not behind us.”