PHOENIX – It was a game of many flavors for the San Jose Sharks.
There was the electric atmosphere for their first appearance at 5,000-seat Mullett Arena. There was Kevin Labanc getting benched after a defensive mistake on a Christian Fischer. But there was also the Sharks grinding down the Coyotes, coming back from a 2-1 deficit to pull out a 4-2 victory.
It was a strong game all-around for the Sharks, even for Labanc who got the chance to redeem himself after his second period break. Mikey Eyssimont, making his San Jose debut, Matt Nieto and Kaapo Kahkonen were among the other standouts.
There were smiles all around post-game, as Labanc talked about the Fischer mistake and his redemption, captain Logan Couture got honest about the Mullett Arena atmosphere and the ice, Nieto talked about his game-winning goal, and head coach David Quinn explained the particulars of why Labanc got benched and shouts out Eyssimont’s debut.
Kevin Labanc, on the message from the San Jose Sharks coaching staff after getting benched:
I felt like I was serving a life sentence. But I think it’s just making sure that you’re ready to play, you’re gonna help the team win two points. So I think that was the message and I think I responded well.
Labanc, on what happened on the Fischer goal:
He was my guy and kind of let him off the hook there. I should have played him a little bit hard, give him a bump or a nudge. But yeah, I was too tight to him. And then he kind of went past me and got the breakaway pretty quick. So I gotta be a little bit more wary on the controlled breakouts.
Well I’m sold. Mullett should be on every NHL fan’s bucket list. Seeing a regular season NHL game so on top of the action and in such a compact environment is a rare thing…imagine a playoff game here! pic.twitter.com/NKtHpusZDq
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) January 11, 2023
Labanc, on the quality of the Mullett Arena ice:
The ice was really good.
There wasn’t a lot of water out there and it dried pretty quickly.
Logan Couture, on Nieto getting rewarded with another goal:
He’s been great. He’s had a great career. He’s been a great Shark. His effort, he gives it all every single night. He’s great on the penalty kill. Fantastic teammate. I can’t say enough good things about Nietsy. We’re lucky to have him here. He’s had a tremendous year. Fun to play with.
I think there’s a lot of guys, a lot of centermen that would be lining up to have him on their line because of how hard he works and the puck battles that he wins. Him and [Barabanov] have been a lot of fun for me to play with.
Couture, on the Mullett Arena experience:
Different is a good word for it, but unique experience.
I enjoyed it. Brings me back to my days when I was playing in the OHL, there’s a bunch of arenas that were about this size. When I was in the league, there were new arenas whether it was Windsor, Kingston, London, arenas like this and it had that familiar feel.
Couture, on the ice:
I’m probably didn’t make it look great, because I was stickhandling the puck into a million pieces, but it was good. No complaints at all. And probably some of the best ice in the league that we played on this year.
Couture, on if he’d like more buildings like Mullett or if this is better as just a one-off:
I’d like a full building. I would rather have it 30,000 than 4,000. So more fans than less. Get that escrow money, get that escrow percentage down.
Matt Nieto, on the San Jose Sharks’ forecheck:
I think our whole team did a good job of establishing our forecheck. I think our F1 and F2 were pretty relentless. Our F3 made good reads whether to be aggressive or cover for the D pinching. Usually when the forecheck is working like that, we’re playing in the offensive zone a lot.
Nieto, on beating 6-foot-5 Josh Brown to the front on his goal:
I just tried to use my speed to get past him there. But he’s obviously a big, strong guy. So luckily he didn’t finish his check on me.
David Quinn, on Nieto:
He’s an honest player. You know what you’re getting out of Matt night in and night out. He’s a very reliable guy. He’s got some skill to complement your top players. That’s why he plays with those two guys. He’s done a good job.
Quinn, on why exactly he benched Labanc on Fischer goal (Nick Bonino walked by as Quinn talked):
Mistakes happen. But the lack of effort can’t be one of the reasons why a mistake happens. But after that, [he had] a lot of great tracks. Real good job in the middle of the rink. Was responsible, forced turnovers, did a really good job…Nick Bonino’s 800th game was incredible (laughs).
Quinn, on Eyssimont’s San Jose Sharks’ debut:
He knows how to make an impression when you fight a guy twice your size. But you can see why we picked him up. He’s got a good pace to his game. He competes, got pretty good stick skills. I was happy with him the first night.
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