Washington Jr. Nationals: Coaches pound pavement for talent

It isn’t easy building a winning team, especially one that finished with a 7-33-2-2 record last season.

Washington Junior Nationals coach Anthony DiPalma isn’t leaving any stone unturned as he tries to recruit players who will produce victories in the Eastern Hockey League.

With eight openings on the roster as of late July – six forwards and two defensemen – he still has some work to do before training camp opens Aug. 12.

“I’m a little more stressed than I thought I would be at this point of the summer,” he said. “We do so well placing kids in college hockey programs and we compete in every game, despite what our record shows. I thought we would be further along.”

DiPalma said he may need to change his philosophy and shoot for a different level of player who needs more development. In other words, he said, go to a Plan B.

“Our ownership is happy about how well we’ve done getting kids into college, but we’ve got to start winning,” he said. “Everyone in the organization is tired of losing. With the level of talent in our league, that takes a lot of hard work.”

The Junior Nationals placed 25 players in college hockey programs the past two seasons, one of the top numbers in the league. Every player who aged out found a spot on a college team.
DiPalma said potential players and their parents rarely bring up the Junior Nationals’ losing record during discussions.

“I bring it up myself as part of the recruiting process,” he said. “Kids need to know that in 83 percent of the games we lost last season, we outshot the other team, basically outplayed them. We just couldn’t bury in the puck in the back of the net. We need players who can score.”

The Junior Nationals’ three-week training camp will follow the same format as last year.

All players, whether they’re slotted to play on the Junior Nationals’ EHL or Metropolitan Junior Hockey League teams, will be together on and off the ice for the first two weeks. DiPalma wants players to work to earn those vaunted EHL spots.

By the time camp opens, DiPalma said, he hopes to have 50 players signed up for the Junior Nationals’ junior teams, 25 on each team. The key, of course, is obtaining more EHL-level players.
Players looking to play junior hockey are invited to the camp for a tryout. For information, go to the Junior Nationals’ website at www.jrnats.org and contact DiPalma.

- Steve Stein

 

Read past Junior Nationals articles in our archives:

Thanksgiving Showcase a bright spot in season

Not the start they were looking for

DiPalma looking for better results from Day 1