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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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The Most Important Season

The hockey year is generally broken down into 4 distinct seasons & normally described as:
In - season – regular season & playoffs
Post - season – recuperation time
Off - season – between post & pre - season
Pre - season - training camps, tryouts etc.

We, however, take the view that Off-season really should be renamed "The Most Important Season" Why? Because it can't be time "off" in the literal sense, if you are an advanced level goaltender. You will have practically 5 full months during "The Most Important Season" to retool, refine and develop your physical tools, mental skills plus make corrections to your on ice game at a goalie camp.

Those who succeed, will never pass up this opportunity. Depending upon your age, you may or may not need to train like a Pro, but, at the very least, you do need to engage in a proper fitness program that helps you become a better athlete & goaltender. Here is a short list of some of the basic elements you'll need to key in on during "The Most Important Season".

Speed & Agility: Allows you to start & stop, change direction & shift momentum all while maintaining good balance

Leg / Lower body strength & power: Gives you explosive starts, sharp stops, hard slides & pushes. Allows for smooth transition from skates to pads & pads to skates and from side to side laterally

Core Strength: Gives you well developed abdominal, oblique & back muscles for smooth, quick, efficient movement in & around the net. (Core muscles are first to contract when we initiate goaltending movements)

Quick Feet: Allows for speed of foot movement in & around the crease for single or multiple directional changes or save sequences

Flexibility: Gives you the ability to initiate movement outside the normal range of motion; especially useful in scramble situations or when caught out of position

High Fitness Level: Gives you great anaerobic capacity and all round conditioning

Hand / Eye Coordination: Gives you the ability to co-ordinate limb movement to intercept the path of the puck effectively on every shot

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20 th Anniversary

Alexander Goaltending will reach another milestone in 2014 as it celebrates 20 years offering training to goaltenders from Atlantic Canada and beyond. With a philosophy of making each point of contact with the student a personal one & attempting to assist them in the pursuit of their passion, Alexander Goaltending has become a Goaltending School of Choice.

Their success is much accredited to the belief that the position their students have chosen to play is very individualized and, so, developing his/her own unique style within a structured base will produce optimum results.

For those of you who may not have yet heard about Alexander Goaltending, they offer summer day camps in Moncton & Fredericton plus holiday clinics, power skating programs & pre-season camps. In addition, they operate their "Net Results" training center, the only synthetic ice, goalie specific, training facility in Moncton. There, they offer weekly Training Sessions in a Semi-private setting during hockey season, and, Private, one to one training from September to June.

Each year well over 175 goalies train with Alexander Goaltending at their various camps & activities.

Company president, John Alexander states "at all of our activities we attempt to go beyond the participant's expectations by offering structured, well organized, professionally delivered programs that are reasonably priced. Our teaching staff come from the best young coaches available & our Director of Goaltending Development, David Alexander (Goaltending Coach Syracuse Crunch, AHL) oversees all of our curriculum. With almost all referrals coming from word of mouth, we are very aware of the importance of continuing to deliver the same top notch programs into the future as we have over the last 20 years"

Some recent Alexander Goaltending success stories:

Jake Allen - named to NHL all rookie team; signs 2 year contract with St. Louis Blues; named to AHL all-star team

Travis Fullerton – CIS National Champion; signs contract with Las Vegas Wranglers, ECHL

Fred Foulem – drafted into the QMJHL by the Bathurst Titan; named to Team Atlantic MU17; makes verbal commitment to attend Harvard

Ryan Hale - named to Fredericton Canadiens MMAAA; named to HNB U16 team

Tanner Somers - named to Miramichi Rivermen MMAAA ; named to HNB U16 team

Carly Jackson - named to Team Atlantic FU18 Hockey Canada National Championship; makes verbal commitment to attend University of Maine

As Alexander Goaltending celebrates their 20th year of working with goaltenders, they have planned many exciting events at their summer camps including prizes & giveaways. And, for everyone who signs on for the Total Goaltending Training Camps, an opportunity to win a prize that is every goaltender's dream.

2014 will prove to be an eventful year for Alexander Goaltending with more of the same plus a special guest or two at their Advanced Training Camps.

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Keep your head in the game

The mental skill of maintaining focus or keeping you head in the game is probably as important as any physical skill a goaltender can possess. Lack of focus or losing focus during a game usually ends in negative results.Still, it is amazing how little time coaches and athletes spend on this important part of the athlete's tool box. I think most of us know of at least one goaltender who had incredible technical skills or who always performs exceptionally well in practice but, who seems unable to achieve the level of success you would expect based on their skill set. They just can't "zone in" when it counts or are easily thrown off their game with the slightest distraction.

Because the mental aspect of hockey occupies such a small, if any, portion of training and development, hockey athletes, in general, think, losing focus is something they can simply deal with spontaneously as the situation arises even if it is in the midst of a competition. But, very few, if any, athletes can do this on a consistent basis. For most, it will require a great deal of repetitive preparation and an understanding that, this, like any other goaltending skill or technique, must be learned and practiced. And, the earlier in an athlete's career he/she understands this, the better their chances of playing up to their full potential along the way.

Understand that maintaining focus during competition starts long before game time. A good, solid pre-game prep, which may include relaxation techniques, visualization or positive affirmations is a great place to start. This, along with a physical pre-game preparation such as a Dynamic Warmup will set the tone and provides a grounding base for every game.

Since we are creatures of habit, a positive pre-game preparation gives a goaltender a familiar starting point game in and game out. If they follow that up with a consistent routine of a few confined space skating drills immediately as he/she steps on the ice, he will now own a consistent and familiar, game approach that will help him start every game in a relaxed, positive state.

So how can he/she stay relaxed, positive and focused during the game? The best advice I can give here is, they have to learn to play, and be, in the moment. Because, if they spend any amount of time, during competition, thinking about incidents that have gone past or which, they anticipate, may happen in the future, they are just wasting valuable energy and opening themselves up to become distracted. Make no mistake, many thoughts will flow through a goaltender's mind during a game.

The idea for them here is to learn to only focus on things they can control....for example (reactions, performance). Things they think and feel. If you can't control it, why think about it. Whether it is a bad call by the ref, team mate error, or even a goal scored (good or bad). Whatever transpires, they cannot allow themselves to dwell on these or other distractions or they run the risk of become completely sidetracked, perhaps even anxious, upset or even angry and lose their composure.

So what can he/she do if they lose focus. One quick way to refocus is to develop a bit of a ritual much like a pre-game prep that will bring them back to a "comfort zone". They can pause and reflect on the thought or incident for a moment, do a quick mental review of the event and release it from their mind as they takes a quick skate to the corner, a drink from the water bottle or flip up their mask. (Watch most pro goaltenders and what they do to refocus after a goal is scored to see what I mean) Some goaltenders will simply pause, take a deep breath and use key words or phrases under their breath to refocus. Some such phrase used over time can become an excellent trigger to clear the mind of unproductive thoughts and refocus.

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