The number one item on your playoff check list should be: Come ready to play!
We’ll get to that later.
It seems like we just dropped the puck. Except for all the snow and cold weather, and lack of sunshine, the hockey portion of this time of the year has gone fast.
Playoffs and the State Tournament are almost here, and then the off-season (that’s another story). Playoff time is very important, so as not to treat it lightly, here are some things to remember and focus on as they approach.
All Sections rank their teams going into the playoffs, and while a No. 8 seed rarely ever beats a No. 1 seed, there are some things that all teams can bring to their game.
As a coach, hoping that your team can play at its best is what you look forward to during playoffs. As a player, even on the eighth-seeded team, you can strive to play the best that you can.
You will know if you do – regardless if your coach knows it or not. Doing that enables you to walk away from the game, and perhaps the season, with no regrets, and with the will and determination to try and get better for the next season. Or just continue to have fun playing the game that you love.
That should be what keeps bringing you to the rink, playing a game that you truly love and have a passion for. Not whether you win and move on, or lose and go home.
I know it is disappointing to lose, but only eight are going to make it to State in each class. So, if you don’t make it you’ll have lots of company.
Let’s begin a list.
Remember I said “Come ready to play.” That should be a coaching focus, but really it’s a player’s responsibility!
Even the weakest team can conclude the season feeling as though they did their best. That’s all we can hope for! You can try and cover all bases, but somewhere in the mix try to take into account your team’s greatest strengths, and biggest weaknesses and start there!
Make a check list and start in your own end of the rink:
-React to the puck
-Win the puck
-Breakout & breakout options
-Face offs & responsibilities
-Your absolute role when your team does not have the puck
-The ability to change from defense to offense, and back to defense-INSTANTLY!
-Pride in goal prevention
-Don’t be a spectator
-Not an area to loaf
-On the attack-what are we trying to do, and how can I do my part to make it happen
-On defense-how can I support my teammates and how can I disrupt what the other team is trying to do
-Don’t be a spectator
-Don’t go offsides
-Give yourself time and space to make a play at the net
-Get in a position useful to your teammate that has the puck
-Win the race to loose pucks
-Don’t pass up shots
-Keep the puck in a position to shoot
-Don’ be a spectator
Keep your shifts short, and work hard!
How many coaches have told players that, but think about it, if you started at the goal line and raced end-to-end until you were gassed, how long would it take – 20-30-40 seconds?
If you go hard every moment you are out there, your shifts should not be more than 40 seconds (excluding faceoffs).
Long shifts mean you aren’t going hard, and are a roadblock to your success.
Games – especially close games in the playoffs – are won and lost based upon a lot of little things, mixed with your determination and a sprinkling of luck!
Regardless of where you end up in the rankings, there are upsets!
Three years ago, the No. 5 seed in Section 4AA, Cretin-Derham Hall, put all of those things together to win the section and go to State, and 4AA has lots of talented teams.
Each coach knows his or her team’s strengths and weaknesses, so set up your practice and drills accordingly.
Some teams might need to practice pulling their goalie, and all it entails, while others might need to change on the fly more effectively.
Each coach, with some thought, can cover those types of loose ends. There is one constant however that each playoff team needs to do: Come ready to play!
Go back an issue or two in "Let’s Play Hockey" to read John Russo’s article on the Elite League, jut to see how far and how quickly the girls have come in their elite play.
The college coaches are noticing! That’s a real feather in our cap, but out there are some real downsides too!
Here are some to think about:
Several schools are having trouble finding enough girls to field teams, and not just the ones who are dipping into their youth programs to fill rosters.
The cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth are only able to field one team each – that’s a sad scenario for those urban populations. What are the reasons? Cost? Interest?
The coaches of those teams have done a marvelous job of keeping things going!
The St. Paul paper (Thursday January 27, 2011) has an article about the cost of high school sports in the Lakeville District, and it lists hockey as one of the most expensive per participant.
That same paper had the closing of Biff Adams Arena resurrected by an expansion of Curling.
Who would ever have thought that ice arenas in this state would get so little usage that they had to close?
Section rosters are set at a maximum of 20 players. The St. Paul and Minneapolis section rosters have less than twenty!
Holy Angels had to cancel a game-were they short on kids? I have heard that Richfield is having some trouble with numbers. Tartan and North St. Paul have a co-op on a couple of their youth team. And North St. Paul has a co-op with Roseville at the U-14 level.
These situations are major problems from my perspective, with little hope of easy solutions. It means we don’t have enough kids!
On a brighter note:
Coon Rapids and Blaine will square off in an outdoor game at Phalen Rink this Saturday at 3 p.m.
Herb Brooks always felt that a much greater access to outdoor ice would always benefit the game. Outdoor artificial is a great way to go. There is some great weather in November, February, and March to be on an outdoor rink.
Even December and January can have some good days, but the best prospect is with outdoor artificial, as the ice is always good!
I have been on the Roseville Oval in November and March, and it's fun outdoors!
Outdoor Artificial is also cheaper than building and maintaining an indoor arena. You can’t play softball and baseball outside in March, or soccer in November, so why not Hockey.
There were a couple of outdoor rinks slated for the complex at the Super Rink in conjunction with the Herb Brooks Center. I wonder what ever happened to that idea?
Heck, even the University of Minnesota women got out side this week, check out their picture in the Jan. 20 edition of "Let’s Play Hockey."