WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - New Wichita Falls Wildcats coach Tony Curtale was in town Friday morning and spoke with Newschannel 6 in his first on-camera interview since taking the job.
Curtale is inheriting a team coming off its two best seasons in franchise history, but with only a handful of players coming back he understands that the past success won't mean much for this coming season.
"What last year's team did doesn't matter very much with only six back, unfortunately," Curtale said. "But, I think expectations are good. They're the same expectations I've always had for myself and always had for whatever franchise I'm with. You shouldn't be in sports if you don't think you can be up near or at the top at all times. We look to continue that, and maybe get that elusive championship Wichita Falls has never gotten."
As for his style of play, he said much of his philosophy is similar to what fans saw the past few years.
"We want to develop first, so we can move guys on," he said. "I think you can develop and win, I think we've proven that in the past. It needs to be an exciting brand of hockey, for the fans but also for the players. We believe in a hard forecheck, defensemen joining the rush. Keep players' feet moving, and make them make decisions."
Another aspect of his teams' style of play, especially when he was with the Texas Tornado from 1999-2013, that many Wichita Falls fans had some reservations about was a perceived tendency for rough play. Every year since 2004-05, which is as far as the NAHL stats go back, his Tornado teams had at least one player in the league's top-7 in penalty minutes, with the majority of those sitting in the top-three.
When asked about this matter, Curtale said the reputation may have been undeserved.
"If you look at the stats, we never led the league in penalties, or any of that kind of stuff," he said. "We always had the most scholarships, the most skillful team. Skill is where it's at, but it's skill in a tough environment. You have to be physical, and you have to be competitive, but skill is paramount, always has been, for our teams in the past."