C.J. Stretch was familiar to many in Citizens Business Bank Arena before the season started, having grown up about an hour down the road in Irvine and honing his skills on the local rinks. He also appeared in one game at the end of last season for the Reign after his final season in the Western Hockey League ended.
The head start may have helped, but Stretch still took some time to gain the trust of Karl Taylor. He finished with nine goals, 12 assists and a minus-8 rating in 46 games, but it was really a tale of two seasons for Stretch. His first 26 games: 3G, 5A. His final 20: 6G, 7A.
Here’s what he had to say looking back (and forward):
How do you evaluate your season?
I think my season went all right. I think everybody expected a better season out of themselves personally. I had to work for my ice time a lot. at the end of the year, I got more and I thought I played pretty well. I thought as a whole, as a team, everybody was playing good at the end of the year.
How much of a challenge was it to get the defensive part of your game up to the standards of Karl Taylor and the ECHL game?
It wasn’t hard, it’s just that I had to focus on it and make sure I stayed consistent. I hadn’t been consistent all the time defensively. Not make those bad reads.
Why do you think you and the team started as slowly as you did?
I don’t know. I wish we all knew the answer to that early. If we did know the answer, we’d be sitting in a pretty good spot. There were a lot of new guys at the beginning of the year, trying to jell. Once we jelled, we started playing pretty well together.
Did you still feel like a rookie at the end of the season?
No, not much. No one really treated anyone as a rookie, or in the olden days how people would treat others as rookies. I felt comfortable making plays, not holding back. I got my confidence up. I thought I could make those plays more. Pretty much that.
Where do you see yourself next season?
Honestly the goal is to play at the next level somewhere. That’s my goal. Whatever team it is at the next level, that’s what team I’ll play on. That’s the goal. If not, I see myself playing for the Reign again. I enjoyed it. I loved the fans, being close to home, and coming to the rink.