In this week's 'Making of a Royal' blog, coach Pat LaFontaine discusses the team's recent second-place finish at the Beantown Fall Classic in New Hampshire and the tremendous work done by power-skating instructor Jacki Munzel. The Long Island Royals National Team defeated Little Caesars (Mich.), the Junior Bobcats (Conn.) and the Valley Junior Warriors (Mass.), before suffering a 2-0 loss to the nation's No. 1-ranked Under-16 team, the Chicago Mission. The final day of the tournament was cancelled due to inclement weather along the East Coast.
Hello everyone. Before recapping our tournament in New Hampshire, I'd like to spend a few minutes this week to thank our power-skating coach, Jacki Munzel.
She's helped us out so much. I really like to mix things up, but such a key part to this game is skating. I was intrigued by the story of (New York Rangers forward) Brian Boyle. Here's a player who played high school in Massachusetts and then at Boston College; he's an NHL player now and he understand that you can never be satisfied and must keep working on your weaknesses. He realized he wanted to power skate to get stronger and to see if there were ways that he could improve his skating, so I give him a lot of credit.
I told our kids, even at a pro level, here's a guy who's conscious and smart enough to say, 'How can I improve and get better?' So he spent the whole summer working on his skating. I really liked his comments when asked what he felt was the difference last year. His exact words were, "I'm getting to pucks in places I couldn't get to last year."
I've always heard great things about power skating and I've been a big fan of pushing the skating side. I can work on the quickness and high tempo and the stops, starts and pivoting. But to actually take power and put that into it and really work on technique, that's what Jacki (a former nationally-ranked figure skater) does best. One of our players, (forward) Dylan Holze, spent the whole summer with her and I've noticed a big improvement in his skating. I've decided to incorporate two Wednesday's a month to power skating, so we do every other Wednesday … it's strictly power skating during practice.
It's amazing already, watching the kids, from their balance to their strides. I'm seeing changes and improvements every week. She's really good on the ice and the kids respect her. She knows what she's doing and knows what each player needs to improve on their technique to get a longer stride, get more power and how to work on their balancing and pivoting and edges. I just sit back and watch. I know the kids are sore the next day, but they're actually in proper position and proper alignment. They're using muscles that they don't use all the time, but the way I look at it is it will only help them in the long run.
We closed the Beantown Fall Classic (Oct. 30) with a loss to Chicago Mission (the club's second loss in 26 games this season). It was a quarterfinal-round game. I told the kids it was a good statement game to see where we're at as a team. We came out and they ended up getting a power-play goal about halfway through. We battled, it went back and forth and they had some good, quality chances and we ended up pulling the goalie late in the game and they got an empty netter with about 15 or 20 seconds left.
It was a tough loss for us. The kids felt like we probably could have played better, but that's a credit to Chicago Mission. They're a real strong team and there's a chance we might meet them here in a week in the Nike Bauer Tournament.
We looked at the video of our game (Nov. 2), and went through some of the breakdowns that occurred. We also looked at some of the opportunities we had and learned from it, and also watched some of the NHL videos. I like to show them videos from NHL goals and plays and things they did and understand some of the good choices they're making and some of the breakdowns. Even at a pro level, it's still about details and consistency and preparing yourself for each and every shift. So we walked through that and we're preparing ourselves for the next tournament (Bauer International).
We've got to find a way to win a game. He's played well in the minors, now he gets his opportunity. We tried [with Jonathan Bernier]. The way I look at it, you get opportunities and you make the most of it. That's what [James Reimer] did. Now another opportunity is here and Sparks ... you gotta grab it. Is he ready? We'll find out.
— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock to the Toronto Star on recalling goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL to start Monday in his NHL debut
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