The Pueblo Bulls put some distance in the standing between themselves and the approaching Idaho Falls Spud Kings in a 4-1 decision Friday night.

Heading into the game, the Bulls were one point ahead of the Spud Kings in the NCDC Mountain Division standings. They’re now three points ahead, although the Spud Kings still have two games in hand.

Having had three different coaches in their last four games, the Spud Kings look forward to slowing everything down and getting back to the basics. It was new head coach John Becanic’s first night behind the Spuds’ bench, and he’s looking to establish his systems and get the team playing the way he wants.

Coach’s to-do list

Becanic has some work to do if he’s going to push the Spud Kings into contention. Here are three things that should be at the top of his list of priorities.

Establish discipline

All season long, the Spud Kings have shown their muscles at every possible opportunity. The slightest taunt from the other team seems to always warrant a few punches to the face. They don’t back down from anything. While this approach puts fans in the seats, it doesn’t always win hockey games.

If the Spud Kings are going to be successful, they’ll have to learn how to manage their emotions and play smart, sophisticated hockey.

Stay out of the box

Along the theme of staying disciplined, the Spud Kings need to stay out of the penalty box. Countless times this season, the Spuds have ended powerplays early by taking penalties of their own.

In Friday’s game, they got off lucky in one of these situations. With just over three minutes left in the second period, the Spud Kings found themselves on a 5-on-3 that was set to last a minute and 45 seconds. After 42 seconds, however, Spuds forward Jackson Beach got into a post-whistle scrum with Henry Vest, sending him to the box. Luckily for the Spud Kings, Vest also got a penalty so the 5-on-3 remained, but Beach could easily have put his team down a man.

Transition the puck quicker

Time after time, the Spud Kings seem to turn the puck over in the neutral zone, forcing themselves to defend a lot more than they attack. They have a pair of elite offensive defensemen in Matteo Mitrovic and DJ MacLeish. If those guys can channel their inner Quinn Hughes and learn how to control the play in the neutral zone, the Spud Kings will see a lot more chances go their way.

What’s next?

The Spud Kings are back at it Saturday night as they face the Rock Springs Grizzlies on the road. The last-place Grizzlies have five wins through 35 games this season, so the Spud Kings hope to pick up a couple of points there. The game can be streamed on FloHockey.TV.

Next weekend, the Spud Kings return to Idaho Falls to take on the Provo Predators in a two-game, back-to-back series at Mountain America Center. Both the Friday and Saturday games will start at 7:05 p.m., with tickets available for purchase on the Spud Kings’ website and at the box office.