We must play as a team, not group of individuals
DEFENCEMAN Jeff Smith says it's vital Hull Stingrays start to function as a team and not as a collection of individuals.
Less than a month ago, Stingrays were a point off sixth in the Elite League and topped their own Gardiner Conference.
Since then, they've slumped to ninth and out of the play-off places, and sit only third in the Gardiner, with all their rivals having games in hand.
The run culminated in throwing away a 3-1 half-way lead to lose 8-4 against leaders Nottingham Panthers last Sunday.
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"I think the Nottingham game was the tip of the iceberg and we've realised we have to get back to work and realise how we were," said Smith.
"We came out in the first period, but in the second and third we just weren't there, mentally, physically or even emotionally.
"It was as though we thought 'okay, we're 3-1 up, that's it,' and Nottingham came at us.
"The whole side doesn't stop coming at you, it's a play-off game every day for them, we have to realise that mentality."
Given the size of their respective budgets, it was no great surprise that the Panthers got the better of the Rapid Solicitors Stingrays yet again.
What left the bitter taste was the manner of the collapse, leaving coach Sylvain Cloutier toying with New Year team changes. He was not the only one disappointed by the result and determined to do better.
"It comes down to our work ethic," said Smith.
"When we were going well a month ago our third line was as good as our first and second, each line was performing in those four games.
"In the last four maybe one line has shown up, but the other two haven't. It has to be everyone, it's a team game, not an individual one.
"It's not like basketball, for instance, where one or two guys can win you a game. It has to be all 20 guys, they've all got to show up."
Given Stingrays face the same opponents tomorrow, it is a fine chance to measure the progress made towards returning to form.
A good performance would provide a fillip ahead of Monday's home clash in the Challenge Cup quarter-final against Belfast Giants.
"We've gone through a stage of playing well, and perhaps it was almost a case of thinking it will come, it will work, it will be fine, but hockey is not like that," said Smith.
"You have to work every day, you have to be conscious about how hard you are working.
"Maybe we started to think we just had to show up to win.
"We have to get back to our mentality of it being a team game.
"Sylvain's team budget is about half of a lot of sides.
"We don't have super-elite stars, just a great system and great group of guys, they are fantastic.
"They're my favourite team I've ever played on in my career, but we just have to get back to Sylvain's systems and doing everything as a team."