Providing the best advice for Goaltenders globally!

Differentiating Yourself

In our last blog we talked brought up the topic of "net presence" and the impressions goaltenders give by their on ice demeanour. And we offered up a couple to tips as to how you might check on your own "net presence".

Today we are going to take a quick look at how to differentiate yourself from other goaltenders in your league/division and stand out from the crowd. Here it is worth repeating the comment often heard from recruiters and scouts...."at some point in time, they all look the same". So, here are just a couple of things that can help you not "look the same".

Become a better all round athlete - most pro goaltenders today are excellent athletes and some such as MA Fleury, Jake Allen, Jonathan Quick & Pekka Renne are exceptional. Being a better athlete will also improve your overall technical skills

Become better at puck handling - a goaltender who can handle wide rims and dump-in shots efficiently are worth their weight in gold and are a coach's dream.

Battle harder - put 100% effort into covering every loose puck; make the impossible save at least once per game

Calm & focused - remain calm and focused when confronted with adversity or when things become chaotic. No emotional ups & downs

Consistency - keep your play consistent throughout the entire game and from game to game

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Your play "sucks'

Frustrated when goals go in or you don't play up to your own expectations?

Here are a couple of things you might want to think about:

a. No one ever improved by "beating up themselves" internally. Negative thoughts DO NOT produce positive results. And, you are the only one who can control that "tiny, negative voice" inside your head. Every time a negative thought comes into your mind, REBOOT THE COMPUTER, and move on to something positive.

b. You will never play a "perfect" game. Your aim should be to play the best you can and help your team win, That is the bottom line. So, shift your focus away from the "you" and just do your job..stop as many pucks as you can, and continue to work to improve

c. Forget about statistics. Any coach, recruiter or scout worth his/her salt will tell you that statistics (especially goaltending statistics) never really tell the true story even at the Pro level because of the circumstances under which the goals were scored. (Quite frankly, who is going to remember that your save percentage was .914 during your last year in Bantam, High School etc. & secondly, who really cares)

d. One period, one game, one season does not define you as a goaltender. Your Hockey goaltending identity is made up of all the years you have played as you move up in age and playing level. You will not be cut from any team tryout because you had a couple of, so called, "bad games" in Pee Wee

e. Focus on the process of developing into a well rounded goaltender who has ABOVE AVERAGE TECHNICAL SKILLS, PLAYS WITH CONSISTENCY, IS MENTALLY TOUGH, BATTLES TO STOP EVERY PUCK NOT MATTER WHAT, WORKS HARD ON & OFF ICE AND HAS A POSITIVE ATTITUDE. Developing as a goaltender is a journey. It has many ups & downs. Mostly how you deal with those ups & downs will determine how far you travel

f. At the end of the day, don't be upset by the results you didn't get for the work you didn't do. IF YOU DON'T PUT IN THE TIME, DON'T EXPECT TO BE REWARDED

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What is your "System"?

Beyond a certain level in hockey, all teams employ "systems". They are comprised of various defensive, attack & containment strategies designed to give one team an advantage over the other and subsequently produce a winning result. And again similar to "game plans" which we touched on last time, goaltenders have very little, if any, involvement in a team's "system".

So, does that mean that you, as a goaltender, should not have your own "system". Absolutely not.

Besides the obvious need for continuing technical and tactical skill development and improvement in areas where you have shortcomings, you really should have a systematic approach to your game outside the ice surface. Here is what we think a typical "system" might look like:

1. Stretch 6 days per week including before and after games and practices
2. Use a proven pre-game preparation prior to each game
3. Follow an in season off-ice training program – as prescribed by the team or a trainer/coach
4. Perform relaxation techniques (deep breathing) – 10 to 15 minutes every day
5. Practice mental imagery – before each game and at least two to three other time per week
6. Set a goal(s) – for each game & practice
7. Record practice notes (what went well, what didn't) after each practice
8. Record game notes (what went well, what didn't) after each game
9. Set medium and long range performance goals for your personal development

Perhaps there are some other things that could be added but these should be the very least if you are truly interested in path that leads you to play at the highest level based on your particular skill set.

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The Game Plan

For many years I have been involved with coaching and hockey teams, sometimes performing minor bench coach duties in addition to goaltending coach.

Inevitably, before each game or sometimes each period, head coach would present the "game plan". At levels beyond minor hockey, this would be done after the morning skate or at a pre game team meeting. Among the things covered in the "game plan" would be items such as forecheck, defensive zone coverage etc. Most times, if ever, were goaltenders part of the "plan". Obviously, being a unique individual position in a team sport, doesn't afford much opportunity to participate in the "team" play of the game.

But, now that I think back, it is perfectly logical for the goaltender to have his or her "game plan". Something defined which establishes what is a "rule of thumb" for dealing with different game scenarios or situations. Written and available to review by the goaltender prior to games or periods providing a "refresher" so to speak prior to the contest. Obviously, a great deal of a hockey game including the goaltending part is reacting to a particular set of circumstances. But, if you have a low risk "game plan" executed based on a set of circumstances, and which you have practised, your odds of success are far greater than if one just goes out and "wing it."

So, what would such a plan look like? Here is an example of some things such a "game plan" could cover off:

  1. back door plays
  2. deflections/tipped shots
  3. drop passes
  4. face off positioning
  5. retrieving & moving pucks
  6. odd man rushes
  7. one on one siutations
  8. breakaways
  9. penalty kill
  10. screen shots
  11. opposition traffic
  12. goal line attacks

This is not an all encompassing list but it does provide a great starting point. Besides the obvious benefits, making this a part of pre-game preparation (mental imagery) may also lead to improved anticipation skills.



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Profiling US College Prospects

By USA Hockey
Mike Cavanaugh, the University of Connecticut men’s hockey head coach and one of the game’s top recruiters, believes that all college hockey coaches initially look for the same things in a recruit: “Skating ability, the ability to make plays and a high-grade hockey IQ.

Cavanaugh knows firsthand how to evaluate a college hockey prospect. Prior to taking the reins at Connecticut, Cavanaugh spent 18 years as an assistant coach and associate head coach at Boston College, during which time the Eagles won four national titles. In all, Cavanaugh helped groom 22 All-America selections and more than 30 NHL players. A large part of Boston College’s winning foundation was built on Cavanaugh’s ability to not only recruit premiere talent but also find premiere talent that fit his program’s culture both on and off the ice.

Cavanaugh will be the first one to tell you that college hockey recruiters don’t merely evaluate players’ on-ice skill set. To get a full evaluation of their true ability, potential and character, Cavanaugh considers a host of other factors, too.

We also look at little things like how good of a teammate the player is,” said Cavanaugh. “How well a player handles adversary and criticism and coaching is also very important.

Cavanaugh offers the following advice on what college coaches seek in prospective recruits:
Style of Play

I think it’s important that coaches recruit to the style of hockey that they want to play,” said Cavanaugh. There are 59 Division I hockey teams and all of them have varying degrees of team identity and playing style. “Union won the NCAA championship with fast and mobile defensemen like Mat Bodie and Shayne Gostisbehere,” said Cavanaugh. “The coach decides what style he wants to play and then recruits according to that model.

The Whole Game
When Cavanaugh watches a prospect, he judges the player’s entire game, not just the highlights. The player’s actions and reactions to negative and positive situations between whistles and on the bench are included in his evaluation, too. This is important for 14U/16U players to remember, because emotions can often run high and then swing low if they’re not in control.

I watch the player throughout the whole game,” said Cavanaugh. “We watch his body language on the bench. Does he try to lift up his teammates? How does he handle the coach’s criticism during the game? These are the things you can’t see on video.

Work Hard on the Ice and in the Classroom
At Boston College, renowned Eagles head hockey coach Jerry York has two basic principles for the foundation of the hockey program: Compete for championships and graduate players. Cavanaugh has carried this tradition with him to UConn.

When I recruit a player, I tell him that if they don’t want to go to class, they should go play major junior hockey,” said Cavanaugh. “If you’re going to come to UConn, I’m going to push you as hard in school as I do on the ice.

Cavanaugh truly believes that there’s a direct correlation between kids that do well in school and kids that succeed on the ice.

I know that the teams I coached at B.C. that won championships were always led by a senior class that had guys flirting with 3.0 GPAs or better,” he added. “I think as a hockey player, if you’re going to put the time and effort into school, hockey will be the fun part.

The Importance (and Unimportance) of Size
Cavanaugh also wants 14U/16U players to know that they shouldn’t be discouraged if they are smaller in stature.

If you’re good enough, you’re big enough,” said Cavanaugh.
He points to outstanding Boston College alums and current NHL players Nathan Gerbe (5-foot-5), Johnny Gaudreau (5-foot-9), and Brian Gionta (5-foot-7) as examples of players who were often overlooked because of their size but achieved great things through hard work and heart.

Parents’ Role
“The college decision is four years that will shape the next 40,” said Cavanaugh. “That should be the student-athlete’s decision. That being said, it’s important that the parents provide their child with a strong sounding board and guidance. They can express their opinion and present the facts. At some point in their life though, the child has to make decisions on their own.”

Cavanaugh illustrates this point by telling a story about the time he recruited a player for Boston College.

The player’s dad went to a rival alma mater and I assumed the dad would guide the kid to that school,” said Cavanaugh. “I was pleasantly surprised when the kid committed to B.C. Later on, the dad told me that the one phone call he never wanted to get was from his son asking him why he sent him to that school and not the one he really wanted to go to. That really shaped my views.

The One Constant
A true college hockey prospect is comprised of many desirable traits, but there is always one constant.

Work ethic is a given,” said Cavanaugh. “Everybody that plays for me works hard. I would think all 59 Division I coaches would say the same thing.

The Big Radar
Cavanaugh believes that there are many different paths that can lead to Division I opportunities for a 14U/16U player.

As long as players are dedicated and routinely practice their basic skills, play hard and act as good teammates, good things can happen for any player in any city. After all, college coaches have huge radars and they’re always looking for talented players.

I flew to Minnesota to watch a certain player,” said Cavanaugh. “But during the game, I noticed two outstanding players on the opposite team. I inquired with the coach of the two opposing players. We took another look at these two kids and really liked them. We recruited them and brought them out for a visit. We couldn’t figure out why these two kids weren’t being heavily recruited. Now, both Johnny Austin and Spencer Naas are on our UConn roster. It all worked out.

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