Frost Getting his Development Back on Track

Bob Rotruck,

Morgan Frost did not make the Philadelphia Flyers out of training camp.

And it is fair to say that Frosty was not exactly “a jolly, happy soul.”

But a shoulder injury with the Flyers in the second game of the 2020-21 season and then the subsequent surgery left the 2017 first-round draft pick a bit rusty. Playing barely two games in about 20 months can do that.

Things had been going very well for the talented, young center. With an AHL All-Star Classic appearance as a top scorer on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms as a rookie in 2019-20 — during a season in which he also played in 20 NHL games with the Flyers — it very much appeared the sky was the limit for Frost’s future. Then came the COVID pandemic and the delayed start to the 2020-21 season putting the brakes on pretty much everything.

Still, when hockey resumed, Frost impressed in Flyers training camp and made the team’s opening night roster. That initial early-season excitement turned sour very quickly when his season ended before it had barely even started.

Shoulder surgery and rehab ultimately led to a return trip to the Phantoms this season, where Frost has undergone an exercise in finding his top form again as well as his timing.

“And when they placed the stick into his hands he began to dance around.”

But Frost didn’t suddenly “come to life one day.” It has been more of a gradual progression with steady improvement along the way. His improved game has come from a higher compete level and not a “corn cob pipe and a button nose.” It’s been more about moving his feet and not “two eyes made out of coal.”

“It’s starting to pick up for sure,” Frost said. “Obviously not playing for so long was tough. I think I was in really good shape coming into camp and I felt good. But it’s hard to recreate anything you do during the season in the summer. Just trying to get up to speed and get my timing. I think in camp I wasn’t creating enough offensively which is obviously my forte. I think it was being a step behind and just kind of losing touch with the game a little bit after not playing for so long. So it’s nice to be playing a lot of minutes and having a good time out here.”

On Nov. 13, it was Frost’s compete level and active stick on the penalty kill when he hounded a pair of Springfield Thunderbirds on the blue line to eventually knock the puck free and thread a perfect pass across a pair of sticks to connect with Max Willman on the rush for the team’s league-leading fifth shorthanded goal of the season.

“Honestly, I was just kind of whacking at it and it kept hitting skates,” Frost said of the puck battle. “Hitting my skate. Hitting their skate. I was spinning around and getting kind of dizzy. Then eventually it bounced out and I saw an opportunity and I just skated as fast as I could down the ice. And it’s never much of an issue for Max Willman to get down the ice. He’s a pretty speedy guy. So he caught up to me and I think I made a pretty good play and he made a great play to finish it.”

Getting to those opportunities and retrieving and winning those available pucks is a significant step forward in Frost’s efforts to become the more complete player the Flyers want him to be.

“I think that’s probably one of the weaknesses of my game,” Frost admitted. “I’m just trying to do that a little better. That’s such a huge part of hockey that sometimes people may not see from the outside — those one-on-one battles. It’s not always about putting up points or making nice plays. The battles are almost more important than that. I’m just trying to get better at that, play a little harder, and hopefully that will get me back up with the Flyers.”

Phantoms head coach Ian Laperriere is pleased with the progress he has seen out of Frost’s game particularly in his decisions with the puck and his overall compete level.

“He’s assertive on the puck. He’s very direct,” Laperriere said. “I do want him to be creative. I want him to make the play when the play is there. But, at this level, if the play isn’t there right away then it won’t appear. If you don’t (have a play) then let’s play the odds. And he’s been doing that. He’s been strong and he’s been smart with the puck. The biggest difference from a month ago is that he’s engaged in the battle. He doesn’t go one-and-done. That goal was on the PK, but that’s also what he does 5-on-5. He’s in the battle and he stays in the battle. He doesn’t just hope that the puck is going to come out. He stays in it. That pass (to Willman) was amazing but I’m more proud of him with the battle he did before he made that play.”

Phantoms assistant coach Riley Armstrong said it is the kind of mentality they reinforce with Frost on a regular basis.

“Definitely something that we talk about with him on a daily of being first on the puck and hunting and hounding that puck to get it back,” Armstrong said. “I think he’s best when he’s moving his feet and when he is skating with and without the puck. When he is doing that he’s a head above other guys in this league.”

Lately, it has also been about simply shooting the puck. Frost has a good shot but often will opt to look for a great pass instead. But developing more of a shooter’s mentality has resulted in some good chances for himself while the added threat also has been opening up more playmaking opportunities to set up his teammates. More recently, Frost’s shots have been finding the back of the net on their own with goals in back-to-back games last weekend.

“I know he loves to pass and he’s a good passer,” Armstrong said. “But you always want to have a little bit of a double threat. When he shoots the puck a little more there’s that confidence. And once they go in then he slowly gains that confidence back and you’re going to see him shoot the puck a lot more.”

Last weekend’s game in Toronto was a homecoming for the native of Aurora, Ontario. It was Frost’s first visit north of the border since August, and a chance to see his family and friends, albeit briefly. He scored his second goal of the weekend in that game and against the organization his dad used to work for: radio host Andy Frost had been the long-time public address announcer for the Toronto Maple Leafs and used to bring a young Morgan to games where he would watch from the press box while Dad worked the microphone a few feet over.

The NHL dream had begun for Morgan at a young age.

“I’d look down out of my booth doing the P.A. and Morgan would be taking notes during warmups,” Andy Frost remembered. “I could tell he took it really seriously and he found it really interesting. He’d come down with me and have the media meal with me. He’d look in the dressing room and he’d look at the row of sticks and he was pretty enthralled by the whole thing. That combined with all of the other things, including his own ability, you can tell he was very interested in what was going on.”

Morgan’s number one fan has his own thoughts on the progress his son has made in the opening weeks of the AHL season.

“He’s shooting more,” Andy said. “And I think somebody spoke to him or he figured out on his own that ‘maybe I should shoot more.’ He’s got a very good shot. Not only is it hard but it’s accurate. The key is confidence. You can tell by watching him he’s a much more confident player then he was previously. He’s playing a confident brand and style of hockey.”

Frosty the Playmaker is using that confidence to lead the Phantoms in scoring which also has him potentially on the verge of another opportunity with the Flyers. If you listen closely you might hear him say, “Don’t you cry. I’ll be back again some day!”

Ben Guite Will Make his Head Coaching Debut with Maine Mariners

Larry Mahoney, Bangor Daily News, Maine

Head coach Ben Guite is looking forward to his debut as the season opener of the ECHL’s Maine Mariners this Friday night.

The team will open its regular season against the Worcester Railers on Friday at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland at 7:15 p.m. and Saturday in Worcester at 7:35 p.m.

Guite, who was a key player on the University of Maine’s second and last NCAA title team in 1998-99, is making his debut as head coach of the Mariners after eight seasons as an assistant and then associate head coach for the Black Bears.

Guite just got a trial run with two exhibition games against Worcester this past weekend. The Mariners and Railers split the contests with Worcester winning on Friday night 5-3 at The Colisee in Lewiston and Maine rebounding for a 3-1 win in Worcester, Massachusetts, on Saturday.

The Mariners are affiliated with the National Hockey League’s Boston Bruins while the Railers are the affiliate of the New York Islanders.

Two of his former UMaine players, Brendan Robbins and Eduards Tralmaks, scored for him as speedster Robbins scored a goal in each game and Tralmaks lit the goal lamp in the second game.

The 43-year-old Guite said he was a little nervous on Friday night “because even though nothing is at stake, you want your team to play well and you want to win.”

It wasn’t a major transition from being an associate head coach to a head coach because he said the late UMaine head coach Red Gendron “used to give me a lot of responsibility. I used to call out the lines.”

Guite was named UMaine’s interim head coach shortly after Gendron collapsed and died on the golf course at the Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono on April 9.

Guite applied for the job but former University of Massachusetts associate head coach Ben Barr landed it.

Guite was disappointed but things worked out nicely when he was named the head coach of the Mariners.

He is enjoying his first venture into head coaching.

“The biggest challenge is you have to wear a lot of hats. Once you get going, you have to manage your roster,” said Guite, who pointed out that he also has to recruit players like he did in college coaching.

“It can become a 24-7 job,” he said.

Guite will constantly lose players to injuries and call-ups to the American Hockey League’s Providence Bruins, who are a step above the Mariners in the minor league chain.

It’s the first year the Mariners are affiliated with the Bruins at the ECHL level.

The Mariners are allowed to have 21 eligible players and two reserves for each game but Guite can only dress 16 skaters and two goalies.

They will often play three games in three days and six games in nine days, so he said energy conservation will be important.

He played in the ECHL in the 2000-01 season with the Tallahassee Tiger Sharks en route to an extensive pro career that included 582 AHL regular season games and 174 NHL games.

“Back then, teams used to carry a lot of heavyweight fighters. But they don’t fit in the game any more. Everybody can play, everybody can skate. There is a good amount of skill in the league. Over 700 guys who played in the ECHL went on to play in the NHL,” he said. “When I played, the goalies were just about the only ones who made it.”

That serves as motivation to the players with NHL aspirations.

Guite said he has been very impressed with the Bruins organization.

“They have been great. They have been an open book. They have invited me and my assistant, Terrence Wallin, to all of their camps. They have included us in their decision-making process and have showed us how the Bruins are going to play and the systems they use,” Guite said.

He likes his team, although the roster can change on a regular basis.

“I really like their competitiveness and how hard they work. If you have that and you have smart players, you can win a lot of games at this level,” he said.

Ingram’s first NHL Win Tells a Story of Perseverance

Michael Gallagher, |

As he took the traditional rookie solo lap Sunday evening in Minnesota — something he said he thought was only done for skaters and not goaltenders — Connor Ingram was aware of the journey that he took to get to the NHL.

It wasn’t long ago that the 24-year-old was in the NHL’s league assistance program, and it was unknown when he would return to playing full-time hockey.

Now, Ingram has his first NHL start — and win — out of the way.

“Nine months to the day that I stepped away and went into the @NHLPA program for help, I played my first game,” Ingram tweeted after the game. “Amazing the things that happen when you put your mental health first. #LetsTalk.”

Added Predators coach John Hynes: “Guys are hockey players, but they’re people too. And he went through a bit of a struggle last year but give him a ton of credit, he’s spent a lot of time here this summer and really got himself going. I thought he had an excellent training camp. He knew he had a good training camp, he put the work in and it’s nice to see a person develop as a layer but more importantly as a person.”

Ingram was nothing short of dominant against the Wild, stopping 33 of 35 shots — including turning away all eight shots on Minnesota’s five power play opportunities — for a .943 save percentage as the Predators handed the Wild their first loss of the year.

He also became just the second Predators goalie in franchise history to win his NHL debut. The other was Pekka Rinne.

“I still don’t think it’s hit me yet,” Ingram said. “Ignorance is bliss almost at this point, where you don’t really realize what’s going on yet. But I feel good. You jump out to an early (3-0) lead like that, and it’s a lot easier to play goaltender. It was lots of fun.

“My first shot in the Western League and my first shot in the American League both went in, so I was half expecting that the first one would go in today.”

Added captain Roman Josi: “He was awesome. He was great; he was so calm in that first game, and it’s a big deal. I was really nervous when I played my first game, and he looked so calm. There’s so much confidence in him and within our team. It was an awesome game from him, and we’re definitely really proud of him.”

Ingram’s success on Sunday was of no surprise to anyone in the Predators locker room. After all, many of them watched him perform at a high level with the Milwaukee Admirals in 2019.

That season, while splitting time with Troy Grosenick, Ingram ranked third in the AHL in wins (21), goals-against average (1.92) and save percentage (.933) as the Admirals iced the best team in the AHL that year. Milwaukee allowed the fewest goals in the league (141) and had an AHL-best 41-14-5-3 record while occupying the top spot in the Central Division.

Many believe the Admirals would have won the Calder Cup trophy had COVID-19 not ended the season prematurely.

That 2019 season was supposed to serve as the appetizer for how good Ingram could truly be playing full-time starter’s minutes. But the Admirals announced the cancelation of their 2020 season, then they struck a partnership with the Chicago Wolves to have a player share for the season.

Ingram decided then was the time for him to focus on his off-ice issues. He checked himself into NHL/NHLPA player assistance program, which helps players deal with mental health issues, substance abuse problems and other personal matters.

He returned to the AHL and made five starts for the Wolves to close out the season before spending his summer in Nashville competing with David Rittich to be Juuse Saros’ backup. When Rittich was placed on the COVID-19 list, Ingram got his shot.

“I mean, I surprised myself,” Ingram said. “I had a little nap in even, so I must have not been too nervous, I guess, if that’s a possibility. It was really exciting. Everybody at home was really fired up, too, so I guess the first one’s over.”

“He’s been working so hard,” Josi added. “He spent his whole summer in Nashville, he was skating almost every day. So that start was well-earned and the win. You could see it in his game, the way he played, he has a lot of confidence, he’s calm and that’s how he is off the ice too. He’s an awesome teammate.”