BOSTON, MA -- The merger of the United States Premier Hockey League and the Eastern Hockey Federation last summer unified the two best hockey development leagues in the East to create one “cradle to college” league where aspiring young hockey players can enjoy the game and reach their potential.
The vision of the combined groups is simple: to provided the best coaching and age-appropriate competition to generate a player experience model which is second to none.
From the youth ranks in the EHF to the tuition-free junior NCDC in the USPHL, it all comes together to show this is the best league for player development and advancement.
LEWISTON, ME -- The Lewiston-Auburn Nordiques, like many top NA3HL teams, have had their top players noticed by NAHL teams. That has led to tryout invites for a few Nordiques players over the last couple weeks of January.
The Nordiques’ top defensive pairing of Cole Ouellette and JP Chauvin made their way to the Johnstown Tomahawks for a tryout during the final week of January. The duo, who have combined for 31 goals, 111 assists, and 142 points, spent a couple days with the Tomahawks with varying levels of interest from Johnstown.
For Ouellette, a ’99 defenseman, this stint with Johnstown could serve as a preliminary tryout for the 2019-20 season. Ouelette has already garnered interest from college programs, but he is using this opportunity to hopefully earn a spot with the Tomahawks for his final junior hockey season. Given his success at the NA3HL level to this point, playing a year at the NAHL level and showing what he is capable of will open further doors for the talented defenseman.
Chauvin is in the last year of his junior hockey eligibility and will be making his college choice in the coming months. It is possible that Chauvin sticks with the Tomahawks for the stretch run, which could quite possibly include a long playoff run since Johnstown, at 35-6-0, own the best record in the NAHL and became the first team to clinch a spot in the Robertson Cup Playoffs.
Chavin, his 68 points, and plus-89 rating, have certainly earned this opportunity, one that, no matter the outcome, will have massive benefits for him. He has more than a handful of college offers on the table and this opportunity could provide some additional eyes to see him before it is time to make a decision on his playing future.
The other player to earn a call-up was goalie Owen Liskiewicz. Liskiewicz joined the Nordiques in December and played five games, going 4-1-0 with a 2.07 goals against average and a 0.913 save percentage. Currently, he is up with the Maryland Black Bears and he has a good chance of sticking with the Black Bears for the rest of the season.
Ouelette made it back for the inaugural Maine Cup, played Wednesday, January 23rd, but Chauvin and Liskiewicz remained with their NAHL teams during the week. Head Coach Cam Robichaud shuffled the lines and created a game-plan that enabled the Nordiques to score early and often. They took 70 shots and netted 11 goals in an 11-4 victory.
WILMINGTON, MA -- For years, the Boston Shamrocks have been one of the preeminent girls’ hockey organization in the Northeast. But now, with the improvements made within the development side of the organization, the Shamrocks’ brass believe that they’ll be able to offer something only a select few organizations can when approaching the next generation of female hockey players.
They have top-of-the-line amenities within one of the best hockey facilities in the Northeast, Ristuccia Arena. For years, the Shamrocks boasted strong U19 and U16 girl’s teams and sent many girls to college to play hockey in the process.
That goal, the one to developing girl hockey players to be the best they can be, continues to be at the forefront of the Boston Shamrocks organization. To fulfill the goal, they’ve added to what Ristuccia Arena offers the players, increased ice time availability, and created a complex development program.
It started in the summer of 2018 when the Shamrocks announced the launch of their full-season U14 program. The Shamrocks now have the ability to fully develop a female hockey player from about age 12 onwards. It’s a major development in the girls’ hockey landscape in the northeast and one that sets the Shamrocks up to be at the forefront of it all.
“Our short-term goals are already in motion”, said U19 Head Coach Kristi Kehoe. “It started last year with the introduction of the U14 program and having that funnel players into the U16 program. Now, we’re focusing on player development and examining what more can be done at each level to create a better process. At the end of the day, we want to make sure that every girl that leaves this program to play college hockey is prepared for everything that experience will throw at her.”
The Shamrocks have always had player development be at the forefront of their activities, but with the introduction of the U14 program, they shifted gears as coaches and began really drilling down into what they envisioned would lay the foundation for the development funnel that they envisioned just a few months prior. To make that happen, they started designing programs for each team to work through. The U14s would work on certain skills that would make them good U16 players when the time came; the U16s would fine-tune those skills, but add additional layers to their games so that they would be effective at the U19 level; and the U19s would work to take their game to new heights, adding speed and physicality to their skills to prepare themselves for college hockey.
It’s not often that you hear coaches from a competitive team sport such as hockey say they weren’t focusing on wins and losses, but that was exactly the case with the Shamrocks early on this season. Given the brand new, top-to-bottom focus on the player development funnel, things had to be stripped down and built back up. The coaches had to buy into the system first, which they did over the summer as they were preparing for the upcoming season, then they had to present it in a way that had every girl, from age 12 to 19, buying in as well.
The individual on-ice results, according to the coaches, have been remarkable.
“Oh man, our team has improved a lot since the start of the season”, said Kehoe. “We have a lot of talented players, but there are certainly things that were new to them: from shooting snap shots, to edge work and other small space situations, there was a learning curve. We have found that our team’s overall confidence and ability have improved. I would totally attest that to the focus on skill development. They have really pushed themselves, and it is paying off.”
“I have seen tremendous growth, not only with the players as individuals, but also with the team as a whole”, said U16 coach Molly Corl. “When we stick to our systems and play our game we can play with any team. It is very rewarding to see players that have had the making of good hockey players inside them all along, finally click and bring it together.”
And it’s not that the Shamrocks organization ditched winning games to focus on development, to the contrary, actually. It is more that winning comes after the players build their games mentally and physically.
“We do want to place an emphasis on winning games at the U19 level, but to us, it is more about creating mental toughness and building confidence that comes with being competitive. We also have high standards for our players as far as doing the little things right no matter the scoreboard”, said Kehoe. “We have emphasized ‘compete, quick transitions, and communication’. Those are the three things that need to be had on the ice every day, Constantly competing on every inch of the ice, moving the puck as quickly and efficiently as possible up the ice, and consistently being aware of what is happening in the game. We have felt if those three things could be done game in and game out, then we would have some solid hockey players on our hands. At the end of the day, those are level of expectations that will be placed on them when they get to college, and we want them to be ready to embrace those standards.”
A number of girls have, or will be making their college commitments in the coming weeks or months. Many Shamrocks’ alumni can be found on rosters throughout the NCAA. All signs point to a bright future for the Shamrocks and their players as they continue building out this model.
They already have the built-in luxury of calling Ristuccia Arena home. The former training facility of the Boston Bruins is one of the finest arenas in all of girls hockey and is on par or better than some college arenas as well. The teams have their own locker rooms, a dedicated study room, a film room, and gym. The ice is theirs almost as much as they want it, which many girls take advantage of when they are out of school or between classes in the case of some of the older girls.
“We are extremely fortunate to have an NHL caliber facility to train at. We have a full locker room (better than some college locker rooms to be honest), full weight room, film area, lounge, and academic area”, exclaimed Kehoe. “With all of this being in Ristuccia, our players have the ability to get better every day. There is no room for excuses with our full-time coaching staff and academic staff being there with them. We have an environment that gives these girls a college experience. Every player is prepared for what college will throw at them when they leave us.”
The full-time coaching staff works diligently to create opportunities for players to get better every day. They’ve put an emphasis on maximizing ice time between the teams and the players. At the U14 level, the girls average about three hours of practice a week, just enough to start skill development but not at an overwhelming level. But at the U16 and U19 levels, that number escalates. The U16s are at about five hours per week and the U19s are at seven hours per week.
All girls in the Shamrocks organization have the ability to come to the arena during the day for 1-on-1 work with coaches. This is mostly taken advantage of by the U19 team players, since they have more ability to be at the arena during the day as opposed to the younger players. The only caveat is that the players, any player, must have their school work done for the day.
“There is no shortage of opportunity to get better with us at the Shamrocks”, said Kehoe. “We’ve put a lot of emphasis on skill development and situational development. Our practices are as a team, but many of the girls take the opportunity to skate with our coaching staff during the day to work individually with us on skill development as well.”
The true effect of the player development funnel may not be realized for five years as the first set of U14 players works their way up into U19 players, but the Boston Shamrocks are off to a tantalizing start. They now have the complete package to offer to an aspiring girls hockey player and could soon be the premier destination in the Northeast for girls looking to work their way into a college commitment. Regardless of if that comes or not, there is one thing that the Shamrocks can almost guarantee: the girls will be ready for whatever that next step throws at them.
“We, the Boston Shamrocks, want to develop the complete person; student, athlete, and individual”, said Corl. “We would like to instill life skills and lessons into the girls to help them grow as both a player and as a person. Our ultimate goal is to help the girls achieve their goals, whatever they may be.”
BOSTON, MA -- During a hockey game, who has the toughest job on the ice? The officials.
There is no game with no officials, and no individuals get more criticism throughout the sport. The officials are in charge of monitoring the game in a fair and honest manner. They are also involved with every play, as they can never make a line change, and throughout the contest they need to be as invisible as possible. There is no task more difficult than officiating a hockey game, and as a thank you to these top-notch individuals, the USAJHM will be presenting a monthly official’s spotlight, highlighting an advocate of the game that has gone above and beyond.
This month’s official’s spotlight features AJ Potvin.
BOSTON, MA -- As the 2018-19 season starts to wind down and everyone is in playoff mode, on the officiating side we are already making plans for the 2019-20 summer camps and seminars by planning out the recruiting calendar. We are looking to make it easy for officials looking to get into officiating by giving them more options on the weekends and weeknights.
As of June 1, 2019, USA Hockey has made a major change in the way officials can get certified during the summer months instead of in-season as has been done in years past.
With the early start date, the more experienced officials have greater opportunities for summer camps and certifications. One of the big initiatives from the Eastern Officiating Collaborative is the ability to have Level III and Level IV officials have all the training done before the start of the season. We have also tied the seminars into the NCAA certification as well.
There are several sites that are listed below that will be combined for new officials looking to advance into the junior and college ranks. These minicamps will allow us to identify and place officials for the 2019 – 20 season. These camps are free of charge, the only requirement is that you are registered for the 2019 – 20 USA Hockey season.
With the explosion of women's hockey in the New England area we have also added a woman's officiating experience to be held at the Newman Sports Center July 18 – 21. Any level 1-2-3-4 women’s official looking to advance, should plan on attending this event. It is free and will include games and housing, so we ask to please register for this event early as we do expect it to fill up fast.
On another front, If you are official who is looking to advance, summer tournaments are a good place to start.
Summer tournaments have exploded over the last 6 years there is not a weekend here in the northeast where there is not a youth or junior tournament where you can be seen by a supervisor.
These tournaments are scouted just like players would be. Players are evaluated for a position with a team, officials are often being evaluated as well; this is where the supervisor will determine where your entrance point will be for the start of the next season. Not just what level but at what position, Referee or Linesman.
One of the problems officials have, is most do not know who to contact within their region outside of the local assignor, who assigns, for the most part, youth hockey at the town and recreational level.
USA Hockey has listings of the District Supervisors and Assignors and what levels they assign on the USA Hockey District Affiliate Websites to help steer you in the right direction to be evaluated or the assignor who can help you advance. For example you can go to The Massachusetts Ice Hockey Officials Website and locate assignors in your area at massofficials.com.
The earlier you reach out to them the better chance you have of getting evaluated on things you need to work on skating, mechanics or penalty enforcement, you will have time to adjust and get a second look at before the season starts.
We are looking for officials who are “coachable” says Alfonso Botchagaloupe long time supervisor in the east, “these events help us find out who is willing to listen and adjust to make it to the next level” says Alfonso.
Mike Schubert who assigns youth through D1 ACHA Hockey in Philadelphia agrees and points out that many officials who work through the off-season are better for it. There is so much hockey during the winter it gets harder to see the same official more than 1-2 during the season especially at the lower levels.
We know the new officials are a little nervous when the come to the games and trying to make it to the next level, all we are looking for when we talk to the officials about skating or positioning they make the adjustment. If we get to see the official early enough in the summer and think they have potential we invite them back for more tournaments and for more coaching.
“We have been very successful in the region” says Schubert. “We have more officials working locally at the junior and college level in the last five years, the success of identifying officials during the summer has really paved the way officials to advance with a jump start before the season begins.
The ultimate goal is to make hockey a better experience for all and at the same time advance those with the time, effort, and passion to make it to the higher levels.
Below is the information that can help pave the way for advancement. There are several tournaments in the New England and Atlantic Districts.
Please reach out to Referees Crease, we are starting the summer tournament assignments for July and August if you are interested in advancing or just getting better.
For those officials looking to advance looking or additional training feel free to reach out to me. There is no charge for the training. Just commitment to getting better!
For those officials who are currently USA Registered or Members of National Ice Hockey Officials (NIHOA) Association who are interested in advancing to the junior and collegiate levels, we have several midget and junior tournaments throughout the season that will include secondary training on player safety, game management, and on ice mechanics for all officiating systems.
After successful completion of the classes you will added to the staffs at the junior level to The United States Premier Hockey League and The Eastern Hockey League, which are the training leagues for Atlantic Hockey League, College Hockey America a Division 1 Women’s League The North East 10 and at the Division 3 The Commonwealth Conference and the Massachusetts College Athletic Conference.
I would also like to thank the following people for their hard work for putting these seminars together to provide and avenue for standardized officiating across all spectrums, Jim Doyle-Atlantic District USA Hockey Mike Shapey, New York District USA Hockey, Kevin Donovan Massachusetts District USA Hockey, Barry Zalcman New England District.
For those interested please contact Gene Binda at firstname.lastname@example.org or Gene Binda Jr. at email@example.com.