The Owensboro Rampage are coming off of a state championship a season ago but because of Covid, they didn’t get to compete in the national tournament.
This season, the Rampage are looking for their second title in a row as they get to host the state championship at the Edge Ice Center in a couple of months.
Rampage coach Jason Link is in his first full year at the helm of the team as he took over near the end of last season.
He said not being able to compete in nationals has given them fuel this season.
“We started with a plan this year to get back to that point. From day one, our first practice, (our goal) was to go to nationals. We prepare ourselves as much as we can and of course with Covid, we had to find new ways to practice. We would do things outside where we could distance. We joined a gym to where we could do Crossfit when gyms were open, that way we could gain stamina and strength that we normally would have gained on ice, we went to Vox Crossfit. They really opened up a lot of new opportunities for us to help find that success.”
With players from around the area, Link said they’ve got a lot of experience on this year’s squad with 90% of players from last year’s team returning.
He added it’s helped with the expectations for this season.
“It’s taken a lot of pressure off of us because I’ve got three players that are new that really weren’t on that state championship team ,” he said. “One of them is a senior, they’re not young players. They’re experienced players. They’re not so focused on getting a ring when they win, they’re more focused on the process, not the end result.”
Link said they were able to get on the ice in late July-early August as several of his players plays multiple sports.
“I have a lot of kids that multi-sport and the kids that multi-sport are excused from all that,” he said. “We really promote multi-sporting. It’s good for the athlete. The state of Kentucky has never produced an NHL player. I don’t think I’m going to change that so those that multi-sport enjoy having something to do instead of nothing so we offer on-ice training, we offer off-ice training, we offer to be able to grow their talents and skills through the summer when the other kids are multi-sporting and gaining strength and stamina. When we get back together, we’re still all on the same level.”
Link is an operational supervisor for Daviess County Public Schools but he knows some of the coaches he goes up against on a weekly basis have a little more in their resume than he does.
Does that bother Link or the Rampage? Not one bit.
“We are a very unorthodox team,” he said. “We are extremely disciplined and we work together as a team. We’re very talented. There’s nobody tougher than us and nobody works harder than us but we play against teams that have professional coaches who are paid to coach, who have a pedigree and a resume with a career in hockey. They have an operations supervisor from the school system. They don’t get that experience on the ice so what we do, we play to our talents.
“Our lines are built to intensify and magnify one another’s talents so we built the lines for chemistry. Every line is different than the last and so if you study us and you set a defense to cover one line, I’ve got three other lines that are nowhere near that. Instead of me trying to beat a standard procedural play of hockey into these kids, I learn their talents and we design practice and a system to magnify what we have so therefore we’re playing to our strengths, not trying to rebuild the wheel. I tell my players all the time, is there a better way to play this sport? Yeah, why can’t we be the ones who find it? We give them a platform and an opportunity to fail with no remorse, with no consequences. If you screw up as fast as you can, we’re really proud of you.”
Despite this being his first full season at the helm, Link has been around his players for years, coaching many of them since they were five years old.
He said he’s been able to instill his style of play when they’re young as they’re able to grow with the plan.
“We have kind of gone through the ranks together so every other year I’ve had some, some I’ve had every year but this year, all these kids have played for me as either a head coach or an assistant coach,” he said. “We’ve been playing that style from the beginning so it’s a perfect storm. This team is unduplicatable. I’m not saying we won’t be good next year but it won’t be the same team because it’ll be a new style, a new system, a new set of talents and a new set of strengths.”
With all players from different schools on the roster and those players suiting up in different sports, there’s always a chance of animosity when it gets to them being on the ice as they could be rivals in other sports.
But, that’s not the case for the Rampage.
“That situation has never crossed my mind,” Link said. “Not one time has it ever been an issue.”
He said they’re not just a team but a family.
“I think one of our biggest assets is how close we are to each other,” he said. “We work together. If we have issues at home or on the ice, we work them out together. We really are a family on the ice, off the ice. I am truly honored to be a part of this. There’s no other place I’d rather be than with those players in the locker room, on the ice, working out. It’s fun, it’s joyful, it’s therapy. It is a good time because we’re family. We win together and we lose together but we do it with joy.”
The Rampage continue their season Saturday at the Edge Ice Center as they host the Central Indiana Knights.