After eight seasons as an assistant coach with his hometown Calgary Hitmen, Brent Kisio was ready for a new challenge.
A phone call from Peter Anholt, the general manager of the struggling Lethbridge Hurricanes, presented the "big opportunity" he was looking for.
"He (Anholt) talked about his vision and where he saw things going here and I think we were on the same page with a lot of that," Kisio said.
The 32-year-old Kisio accepted an offer to become the Hurricanes' head coach, inheriting a team that had gone 20-44-8 last year.
But after an eight-game winning streak early this season, the Hurricanes sit third in the Eastern Conference with a 12-5-0 record.
Lethbridge defenceman Andrew Nielsen says that with a new, youthful coach and a few new players, the Hurricanes have created a winning atmosphere.
"Being a younger guy, he can kind of relate a little better to us than what I think some of the other guys have been able to," said Nielsen, who was drafted 65th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in June.
Nielsen says Kisio is a good listener.
"He takes our input into a lot of things," he said. "He has his rules and expectations but he really asks us what we're feeling and (how) we want to go about things and he pushes us every day to get better. I think everyone enjoys that and we're reaping the rewards from that right now."
It's an approach that both Kisio and Anholt believe is good for the players' development.
"We want players to coming from our program to move to the National League or the American League and become pros and I think when the players see you care and put a lot of their interests first that fall into your team goals, you have a lot of success," said Kisio.
An effective power play has helped the Hurricanes win this season — they have converted 23 times on 80 power-play chances, good for a 28.7 percentage and first in the WHL.
Nielsen, who ranks third in scoring among WHL defenceman with 20 points, has been a big part of the power play's success, scoring four goals with the man advantage.
Kisio says that he's coached some good power plays before, but isn't sure if he's ever had a team with two units that can score like the Hurricanes.
"It seems like for whatever reason when ones not going, the other one contributes and that's been a big part of our success so far," said Kisio. "I think we're hard to cover because you can't cover us tight because we'll just shoot from up top. If you get some loose coverage on us and they want to take away Nielsen, we'll find some seams behind you, so I think having a threat from all over has been a big part of our success."
The last time Lethbridge made the playoffs was in 2008-09, and while the season is still young, Nielsen thinks success in the post-season is within reach.
"Not just make playoffs but go on a nice run," he said in explaining the team's goal this season. "You can't be satisfied with just getting there and we know that everyone is going to be gunning for us now because they know that we’re a team that is for real this year."
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Ryan McKenna, The Canadian Press