Sunday, December 20, 2009

Team Updates

Lots has happened in the past couple weeks: Eden Prairie Pee Wee B2 tournament, women's games and practices, and scheduling my flight to Israel!

We entered the Eden Prairie tournament late in the game because they were short a team. We played our first game against the Eden Prairie Pee Wee's. We had beaten them 6-3 in a scrimmage earlier in the season, and I think the boys considered this game a cake-walk. Well, it was nothing of the sort! We lost 5-0, and the boys got a hard lesson in what happens when you're overconfident. EP kept a player up high, and he had numerous break-a-ways, some which resulted in a goal. We weren't able to put the puck in the net, and you could tell that EP's goalie was on his game (it turns out I had coached his brother a few years ago). Following the EP game, we thought we had lost our chances for the championship game (was a round robin tournament, 4 of 12 teams made it to championship day). We played Elk River and beat them 6-1, which was an unbelievable game for our boys. Only a few hours after that we took it to Stillwater and won 3-1. For us to make it to the championship day, Edina would have to beat Lakeville by 5 or more goals. Well, in our favor Edina won 6-1! Game #1 of championship play we played Edina (the team we had beat 3-1 earlier in the season). In an impressive showing by the team, we won 3-1 again and went to the championship game. Our boys were exhausted, and you could tell by their play against Highland. We lost 4-1, but had an unbelievable tournament overall.

The women are really stepping it up and playing like we want them to. They still don't have "W" under their belts, but we think it is soon to come. They have had one practice since my last post, and worked on defensive zone coverage, blocking shots, and had a little taste of "conditioning". I know how much they want a win, but I hope that they see how much they are improving and the scoreboard will soon reflect this.

I have scheduled my flight to Israel! I leave December 29 and come back on January 10. Spending New Year's Eve in Tel Aviv, and off to Jerusalem to see the old gang. I have heard some new places opened in Jerusalem that I am excited to check out. It will be great seeing old friends, having a shwarma, and drinking a Diet Coke on Joseph's balcony. What a blast!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Awesome Women's Game!

Wow! The women played fantastic tonight! We played the Voyageurs (sp?) who we have played before and lost to 5-0. I think that we succeeded for many reasons, and it began in the locker room. Having played these gals before meant that we had a game evaluation already completed on them. We looked back at that and saw what we did well and what they did that should be remembered. And let me tell you, we rocked! We did everything that we wanted to remember from last time and more.

We scored the first goal in the first period. We went into the second up 1-0. However, they scored 2 goals on us in the second period, and we weren't able to come back and get the win. Our team (finally) played aggressively and attacked the puck and the puck carrier. This forced them to just throw the puck away, which meant that we could pick it up and go.

This team is SO MUCH FUN to coach! I love coaching adults. They don't cause trouble, slack off, and they all want to be there. Nothing better :)

Keep up the good work!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What a Fun Game! (vs Irondale)

Last night, the Pee Wee B2's played Irondale for the second time. I don't think any of our boys went into this game worried about if we would win or lose, but I went into the game worried about how the boys were going to play. Players tend to get lazy when playing teams who they have already beat 6-0 previously, and I did not want this to happen. So, I am going to give you a little insight into what goes down in the locker before and after the game and on the bench. This was probably the most fun on-bench we have had on the team.

Locker Room Pre-Game: So before every game, the boys do their pre-game evaluation. We talk about team goals, things to work on, etc... We discussed how they can't play overconfident and they need to work on moving the puck around. Don't just skate it up the whole time, make good hard passes right to your team. After our warm-up, I give my big pre-game speech (probably one of my favorite parts of pre-game preparation). This time, we did it as if it was a story, and Willy was the mean dragon ;) We had fun, and the boys went on the ice with a good attitude.

On the Bench: We had an okay first period. The boys played kind of lazy, and I think we took care of that between periods. In the first period, we only scored 1 goal and the didn't have very many shots on net. Well, after the first period the boys decided to step it up and have a little fun while scoring goals. Also during the second period one of our team mates decided to take over the role of "coach" and give Brandon and I a break. Andy, our wonderful goaltender, began giving all the players advice as they came off the ice. It was hilarious! I could not stop laughing. From telling certain players they haven't scored enough goals during the game, to giving some grief about long shifts, everyone had a few good laughs during the game. Between the 2nd and 3rd period, we let him do the between period speech, and he definitely got the players going. How fun!

Locker Room Post Game: I love being in a locker room after a win. The boys have great spirits and are fun to get a long with. We did our post-game analysis, and they touched on some very good points. For all of you who wonder "what do they write about?", we have them journal on three questions. 1) What did we and you do that worked against this team; 2) What did we and you do that did not work against this team; and 3) What did they do that should be remembered for next time?. These, in my opinion, are working perfectly! Andy completed his coaching duties, the kids goofed around for a few minutes, and then we were out.

What a fun game! This is by far the most fun team I have ever coached. The kids are great!

Remember to keep up with our team picture blog by clicking the link on the left.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Minneapolis Cup Tournament: 2nd Place!

So I wanted to wait until the tournament was over to put up my post. It really was a crazy weekend of hockey, not only in our tournament but all over Minnesota for all the Thanksgiving tournaments. Thanksgiving is one of the top weekends for hockey tournaments in the Twin Cities, and every team I've spoken with was in one. Our team was in our home tournament, the Minneapolis Cup, which was an 8-team bracket play tournament. Teams like Wayzata, Bloomington Jefferson, Edina, and Minneapolis took part. Our team played Wayzata for the first game.

Game vs. Wayzata: The boys came out working hard and knew that they had a tough task ahead of them. Wayzata, normally one of the top associations in the state, was going to be a tough task. The boys came out ready to play, and boy did it show! We put 2 in the net in the first period and 2 in the second period. They shut us out in the third, but we didn't let any by either. Final score: 4-0. Next, semi-finals!

Semi Finals vs. Bloomington Jefferson: Bloomingon had beat the other Storm B2 team 2-1, and I think that the boys came out a little over confident. Having a not-so-great first period, it really made the boys open their eyes and realize that if they wanted to go onto the championship they would have to step it up. Well, after our "huddle" between the first and second period they came out playing the kind of hockey that they usually do. We scored 2 in the second and 2 in the third. I was very proud of how the boys stepped it up. I don't think many teams would be able to do that.

Championship vs. Edina: By far our toughest game of the tournament. We came out hard but had some early penalties. They were just an all around good team. I think our boys were pretty tired from all the hockey, but this game was a good way for us to see what we need to improve upon. I think in the end the boys were satisified and know that they had to work hard to get there. I am very proud of them! Final score: 5-2 Edina.

Good weekend! We have a few league games before our Eden Prairie tournament. Here we go!

Monday, November 23, 2009

2 great games, and a coach who needs to vent

Yesterday, both teams (Pee Wees and Icebreakers) had games. Even though we were going up against teams that were better then us, I thought both teams did a great job at holding their own. Here is a quick recap and "coaches insights" into both games. Also, at the end, I vent about something thats grinding my gears.

Storm B2 (us) vs Storm B1
District 1 is different from District 6, the district that I am used to coaching in. D1 has fewer players, and isn't home to as many hockey-minded communities (vs. D6 which has cities like Eden Prairie and Edina). So, unlike District 6, District 1 does not differentiate between B2 and B1 teams, there are just "B" teams. This means that if associations decide to field a B2 and B1 team, they will play in the same league. This isn't a bad idea, especially for playing in tournaments and post-season play.

Last night, the Pee Wee's took on the B1 team in our association. This was pretty interesting, as friends and former team mates were going against eachother. In the locker room, we discussed how success is not determined by the score on the board, but by skating hard, playing the correct positions, and playing hockey the way they have been taught. We had less of an emphasis on winning, and more of an emphasis on playing positions and working hard. The game was by far one of the better games we have played this season.... so far. Our boys came out strong, played well, took few penalties, but were unable to secure the win. No big deal if you ask me. They had a chance to play a better team, and they will learn from this. This also showed that all the players are in the right spot (if we had won, then people would has asked "shouldn't we be the B1 team?"). Johnny played phenomenally, and so did everyone else.

At practice tonight, we are taking them back to the basics to gear up for our first game against Wayzata in the Minneapolis Cup tournament. I heard that the other B2 team beat a Wayzata team, so I did some checking, it is NOT the same Wayzata team we will be playing.

The women played last night against the top team in our division. As coaches, especially college-aged coaches, we do our best to keep that boundary between "coaching" and seeming disrespectful. This is probably to toughest thing that we encounter. When you play a better team, as a coach, you want to do whatever you can to get your team working hard, and give them the tools on the bench to be successful on the ice. In the locker room, we went over our team goals and talked about playing defensive hockey.

On the ice, we did a very very very good job at playing our positions. Probably the best we have done so far. The other team did a great job at getting a lot of shots off, as showed by the score (6-0). The one thing that bothered me and some of the other team mates was that our team was taking waaayyyyy too long of shifts. There is only so much you can do as a coach to prevent this, especially at the adult level. Looks like at practice we'll be doing my "short shift" drill. Be prepared ladies :)

The Icebreakers have come a long way since I first saw them on the ice. I am very proud of how they have improved and their hard work ethic. Keep it up!

There are a lot of coaches out there who will only play 2 lines, or shorten the bench regularly during a game, or even decide not to play players certain games. This tics me off! Every kid paid the same amount, put in the same amount of work, and is a part of the team. You think by sitting a kid for all or most of a game that he'll feel like he is a part of that team? Absolutely not! As coaches, it is our duty to do whatever we can to create good hockey players. This is done by teaching every kid everything you can about their position and the game. If you do a penalty kill and power play, teach it to every kid, not just a few. Give every player the chance to start a game, and play every player as much as you can when you are playing better teams. This creates better hockey players. It is our job to help kids succeed in this wonderful sport, not put them down (emotionally) because one kid is better then the other. The ONLY time you shorten your bench in association hockey is the last six minutes if you are down by a goal or two.

Also, if a player makes a (example) Pee Wee B2 team one year, you under no circumstances put him on Pee Wee C the next year. This is the same for every level, from Squirts through Junior Gold. If as coaches we make a mistake and take the wrong player, that is our mistake and the player should not be "punished" for it the next year.

Why I am venting about this? Because I am sick of coaches who just coach for the title, and not about teaching hockey. That isn't what coaching association hockey is about.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

When Everything Goes Right :)

Pee Wee's tend to be a little crazier then Bantams, and definitely crazier then the women! But for some reason, when it comes down to crunch time, they step it up. We did our outside warm-ups, and the boys were a "little" unfocused. That carried into putting on the skates, but once we began our pre-game pump-up speech, they were silent. Prepared. Ready. Wanting to win the game. We step on the ice, and all the boys look to Brandon and I in amazement. "Coach! Do you see those guys, they're huge".

But my gosh, that didn't stop our team. We had the best first and second period we have ever had. The puck was in our offensive zone for probably 10 of the 12 minutes in the first period (shots on goal, us 11, them 1). In the second period, we took it up another notch with 5 goals. However, in the third I wanted to try a different forcheck (which I corrected back right away) to a 3-1-1. Didn't work. We didn't score any goals in the third. Their team came back hard in the third. Many, many, many cheap shots (no comment on how they had 0 penalties), Irondale got some shots on net, but overall we kept them from scoring.

Final score: Minneapolis-Park 6, Irondale 0

The boys have two days off, followed by a Saturday practice (which will probably be one of the toughest practices of the year) and then a Sunday game against the B1 team in our association. The boys better be prepared to play their best. We aren't looking for what the scoreboard says but how they play. If they play their best, I know they will do well.

Saturday is also picture day, so everyone look pretty!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Boys, Girls, and Diet Coke

What a great, action pack filled weekend of hockey! Pee Wees and women both had ice, and of course right by my side was my Diet Coke ;) The player's think I need one to stay sane on the bench... who knows! Pee Wees have had a lot of ice time, with tomorrow making it 5 days in a row. The women, however, haven't been on the ice in a week until tonight.

Game vs Cheeseheads
Saturday afternoon, around 2:00 PM, the team packed up their bags and began the trip to New Richmond, WI, to play what we would come to find out was their Pee Wee A team. After the long drive, you could tell the boys were tired but luckily ready to play some puck. They all were ready on time, full gear (no skates, of course), and made their way outside for the pre-game warm-up. We decided to go into what we thought was the open field, but it turns out it was someones property and we got kicked out (I blame Willy... just cause I can haha). We headed to the baseball field to complete it, and I must say, I kicked butt racing them around the field.

Back in the locker room, we pushed that this was a scrimmage and that they should focus on the team goals and most importantly, having fun. When we got on the ice, we did pretty good skating with them in the first period. After that, New Richmond definitely stepped it up and you could tell they were a Pee Wee A team. They got in a few quick goals in the last two periods, and the final score was 5-2. Even though the scoreboard doesn't show it, the boys played pretty well. They really did their best to skate with them, but in my opinion, needed to open the ice up more and and not worry as much about getting those "NHL-style" goals.

Following the game, Marco, Jacob, Drew, Coach Cramer and I all drove in the same car. At the three boy's request, we cranked up the music and let them forget about the game. Making our way to Buffalo Wild Wings, where the team was meeting, for some good food after a long game. These boys get along so well! I have never seen a team like that before. Hopefully they can keep it up!

The women played very well! They did a great job of sticking with the team goals and playing very hard. We did lose the game, 2-0, but I cannot tell you how many times we had a chance for a goal. I think that they girls are very happy with their play, as they should be, and will be ready next game to get a "W" on the board. With a little more practice and working on zone-coverage, I am very confident they will be extremely successful.

...this week
Monday youth practice, Tuesday nothin, Wednesday Pee Wee game (Katie has her coaching class). See you then!  

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Beaver Bounce & Game vs Johnson

The Beaver Bounce
Where did this crazy victory dance come from? The Pee Wees seem to do it after most goals, and parents are probably thinking "why is my kid bouncing?" or "what the heck is that?". Well, I have an answer for you, and I believe that this crazy dance will stick with the kids for years to come.

Two lunatics decided to post a video on YouTube where they drink white wine, eat shrimp, and hit on girls. Along with their weird antics they created this dance called the "Beaver Bounce". Click here to watch (I would rate this PG-13).

So how did our team start doing this? Coach Cramer has been notorious for getting people, no matter what the age and situation, to beaver bounce to any music that is playing. From Akon to Frank Sinatra, Brandon has the skill to raise the roof. Katie, Liv, Brandon and I come home from one of the women's games one day and have our adrenaline runnin' and decide we need to throw on some music and dance. Brandon says "ok, we're beaver bouncing!" And from there it was decided that all the boys must learn this beaver bounce technique, and man have they done a good job!

Go to the Pee Wee B2 blog to see pictures of the players beaver bouncing.

Game vs Johnson
Pee Wee's played Johnson tonight. After having three great scrimmages, I guess they were headed for a game that wasn't as great. Granted, they won 3-0, they were not playing as well as they could have. They skated down to Johnson's level instead of doing what they should have and made Johnson try and skate up to theirs. There were a few dumb penalties and some off-sides that should not have happened, but I think that they will pick it up with a scrimmage tomorrow and practices this weekend.

The boys in general are a really good team. One of the great things about coaching Pee Wees is that you can still teach them things and not just deal with emotions and cockiness. These kids have a chance to go a long way this season, and it will take a lot of hard work and determination. Do they have it? We'll see...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Blog is Back! What's up?

After being out of the swing of blogging for a few weeks, I decided to un-delete the blog and bring it back. Long story why it was deleted, but I will keep posting the little tid-bits of information that don't make it into team e-mails or said in the locker room, and even insights into why I/we did things we did with the players.

I have changed associations and am now head coaching the Washburn/Minneapolis Pee Wee B2's. The boys are great! Awesome kids, great parents, and unbelievable managers (which makes the season much easier for us coaches). We have had three scrimmages so far, so here is the recap of each:

vs other B2 team in association: This was a big game for the boys as they were going up against the kids that they tried out with and will be playing with in the future. I wasn't too sure what to expect, because with it being our first scrimmage who knows how our team would be. In the locker room we discussed simple things that they need to remember: odd-man rushes, taking the body, and pass pass pass. The puck dropped, and the boys stepped it up immediately. Goalies played fantastic, each splitting the game. The final score of the game: 4-1 win!

@ Eden Prairie: If playing the other B2 team was big for the boys, playing Eden Prairie was huge for me! Having played my entire (yet short) career in Eden Prairie and coaching there for 4 years, I wanted this win. Brandon and myself both are graduates of EP, so not only did we want to win but we also knew kids on the team. We explained to the boys how Eden Prairie normally fields unbelievable teams who know how to pass and shoot well, but don't do as well at taking the body. We are sure the boys could sense the excitement in our voices. Their team seemed ready to go, and the puck drops... What a game! The boys played awesome! Beating Eden Prairie 6-3 (one of our goals was really an icing that their goalie whiffed) made those boys feel like they were on top of the world. Good game, gentlemen!

vs Edina: "Gentlemen, you will be playing one of the best teams in the state. Want to beat them? Beat them at their own game. They get the puck, knock them down. They come charging at you, know who you are going to pass to. Be prepared boys, this is going to be one of the toughest games of the season." The boys were ready. Skates tied. Buckets on. Coaches nervous. Puck drops, pass... pass... we score! Edina was phenomenal, passing like we haven't seen in awhile, playing physical, and skating hard the entire time. However, our team stepped it up and was so mentally prepared while on that ice we were in complete shock. They barely let Edina move with the puck, they played their positions so well, and the passing was the best we've seen so far. Final score: 3-1. GREAT GOALTENDING JOHNNY AND ANDY!

First official league game tomorrow vs Johnson. Remember gentlemen, Beaver Bounce!

What about the Icebreakers you ask? They are doing fine. We definitely have areas that need a lot of work. It is tough because we haven't had everyone at practices which means I can't go over breakout, and that is what we need the most work on. If we can stick with the basics, the ladies will learn the skills they need to succeed and as time goes on will get some "W's" on the board. Brandon, Liv, and I are having a blast coaching this team. They are fun, outgoing, easy to coach, and don't talk back (cough cough pee wees!). Will keep everyone updated on how they're doing...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

3 Hours of Ice in 2 Hours Time

When people say that youth hockey coaches are dedicated, they usually refer to the countless hours put into working with players and doing their best to help them improve. But my goodness, I didn't realize it also entailed being in two places at once! Last night was definitely one of those hectic nights. It started with finding out that we couldn't end Bantam tryouts because a few new kids just registered, which means we need to give them some time to go through tryouts. Well, as coaches, you know immediately if you are going to take a kid or not, and we made that decision last night.

As I am getting ready to leave tryouts, we had two injuries within 30 seconds of eachother. The coach that was on the ice got a puck to the face (and ended up getting 9 stitches) and a player wasn't wearing his moutguard, and bit through his lip. Thank goodness for the good 'ol first aid kit! I have already used that baby 4 times in these tryouts, which is the most I've ever used it! Kinda stinks, though, that people get hurt in tryouts. What is funny, in a non-haha way, is that neither injury was because of rough play or an illegal action happening.

I left tryouts super early to go coach the Icebreakers scrimmage against the Xplosion. This scrimmage was a great way for me to see what we need to work on... zone coverage! I am not even going to touch on that, on-ice, until I feel comfortable that they have the individual skill to begin zone coverage. I have seen such massive improvement though on our first few practices that I am happy to say that these gals will do just fine when the games roll around.

I left that scrimmage 10 minutes early to go back to tryouts. Watched a few more minutes of it, and pretty much have my team down. Now it is up to the A coach to decide his team, and then I will take care of mine. A lot of the boys keep talking about the "Breezy Point" tournament, so whoever makes my team will definitely enjoy themselves up there. Tryouts WILL be complete by Tuesday night, and teams picked then.

Ahh yes, the life of a coach :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Highland Bantam Tryouts and the Icebreakers Begin

After coming from one of the largest hockey associations in Eden Prairie to coaching hockey in Israel, this year will be a new and exciting adventure for which I am very happy to begin. Having the opportunity to change pace and go to a smaller association like Highland Central and coaching the Banta, B1s, and also working with women who only began playing a few years ago, is going to challenge me in ways that can only improve my coaching skills.

Highland Bantam Tryouts
Highland Central has a different process for running their tryouts. Instead of hiring outside evaluators to tell the coaches which players they will have, they allow the coaches to have full control over who is on their team. This process is known as the "Bantam Prospect Camp" and consists of placing all the players on three evenly balanced teams. Each team is assigned a coach (I am assigned to the "white" team), and practices with another one of the prospect camp teams. Each team is given 14 sessions, and coaches can attend all the team's sessions if they choose. We are told to choose our team based on these sessions.

The hardest part of this process is that we must not only organize all our sessions, but also grade the players while on the ice. What we have done is have some sessions where we run skill-oriented practices, and others where we scrimmage. For some the Bantam A coach and myself are on the ice, and others we sit in the stands to grade. We split the kids into four lists (for our own sake): A, A/B, B/C, and C. The hardest part are the "bubble" kids, or those kids who could play up but we aren't sure yet.

After getting off the ice tonight we are hoping to cut tryouts short so we can start team practices. The Bantam A's start games as early as November 1st, and my team has a tournament starting October 30th in Breezy Point.

WHAM Icebreakers
This is going to be such a fun team to coach! The team consists of women ages 25+, most of whom just began playing hockey a couple years back. Our practices, right now, are all skill oriented (skating, shooting, and passing). I have no idea when we will get into team oriented drills, but right now focusing on skills is the way to go.

Like some of the women have told me, they are much more fun to coach because "there won't be calls from parents and we can legally drink". One of my favorite things so far is that one of the gals came on the ice wearing a Spongebob jersey! Only in womens hockey, eh?

Games begin soon, and that is where I will really see how they match up to everyone else. Hopefully we can make it to playoffs!