I am sitting here, home on a Saturday morning wondering “Now what?” and “What if?” These are the 2 most difficult questions at the end of a season. On Tuesday we will get together one last time, go for a skate, turn in some jerseys and just like that it will be the end of the season. It’s never easy to do it. This year will be one of the tougher ones for me because with so many of these kids I have watched them grow up. Literally. Some of them from the time they were 7 or 8 years old. Many of these kids I always wanted to get the chance to coach because they were just great kids who were always the underdogs when they were younger. They weren’t the elite AAA kids that everyone new were pretty good. They were the kids who came to the rink, worked really hard, had smiles that would light up a room and were just great kids. I won’t name names but getting to coach these kids this year was one of the best experiences for me. It is unbelievable to see how strong they have become as hockey players. They have an ability to compete with anyone in the country. I am not saying they would beat the best. That’s not what we were. However I am saying they could step on any sheet of ice, on any given day and give ant team a flat out game. They may even beat you. What an accomplishment! Some of these kids will go on to play college hockey if they choose to keep pursuing it. I have no doubt of this. What’s way more important to me though is that each and every one of them have become great young men. Great young men who are going to be successful in life. As Student’s. As Dad’s and Husband’s. As Son’s. As Employee’s or Businessmen or Teacher’s or Engineer’s. They are going to make peoples worlds around them better and that is what it’s should really be all about.
Then I got lucky enough to coach and know the new kids this season. Again guys who weren’t known as the AAA no brainers and you find out that some of these kids are flat out warriors. They become your leaders quietly through just sheer hard work, determination and effort. You watch them earn the respect of their teammates almost immediately. Again for me it was just watching their character and the way they conducted themselves. We definitely had some different breeds of cats on this team but to a man there was character. I believe that is why the team was as successful as it was. Just the sheer character that was brought into the room by our core of veterans and by our new faces this year.
However all of the above being said I know we still have kids that will need to continue to mature and understand how hard the road in front of you will be. Especially in the insanity that hockey has become at the older levels. This whole team is really still a local hometown team. That is the most impressive thing about this team. We didn’t have a billet player. Nobody from Sweden or Russia. No hired guns. A bunch of guys who lived about an hour or less from our home rink and we did all of what we did. You know how hard that is to do these days? You will be lucky to find 5 U18 teams and 2 junior teams in the whole country like that. But we did it… again. But now the large majority of this team will be moving on to hopefully bigger and better things and Coach Huff and I can only hope that you listened. Did you really listen to the lessons we were trying to teach you? Did you really hear us when we told you what it will take to be successful at the next levels? Did you?
Being a great teammate?
Bringing undue attention to yourself?
Running your mouth?
Negativity on the bench?
Negativity towards teammates?
Stupid selfish penalties?
Doing the same thing unsuccessfully over and over and over!!!!!
Taking off ice workouts seriously?
There were 100’s more little lessons that we have tried again and again to teach these boys and we can now only hope that they listened. You see our team this season was not a typical junior team by any stretch of the imagination. (Another lesson). There wasn’t 5-7 guys in the stands waiting to take a guys spot if he screwed up or didn’t give a 100% effort in the coaches opinion. (By the way fellows the coach’s opinion will be the only one that matters in your futures.) There were many, many, many times that Coach Huff and I wished we could of just stuck you in the stands for a day. Let you think about your mistake or lack of discipline or effort but all we could do was talk to you about it. DID YOU LISTEN??
In your future those same things WILL put you in the stands or off of a roster. We couldn’t really discipline someone by benching them because we didn’t have the bodies to do it. That’s where the character comes in. As stated I believe we had character in spades but there were too many times where guys pushed too far and it hurt the team. Now going forward as my guys look to play elsewhere their character will become even more important because when you throw your hands up, slam your stick, pout on the bench, criticize a teammate, have a meltdown, take a dumb penalty, don’t go hard on a forecheck, try to sauce a puck cross ice …… well you are going to get hammered into the ground by your coach. One of these little things may be the difference between your success and your failure. One little thing. DID YOU LISTEN?
Alright that’s it! I am taking a break from coaching now and going back to the success of what this season was. All I can say is WOW!! What a run right to the finish. Some unbelievable achievements by our players. We had the top offense, top defense, top goaltending and top power play in the league. Jesse Farabee was league MVP and Offensive Player of the Year. Putting up 100 points. Another 19 in 7 playoff games and another 50 plus points in our midget games. Those were crazy numbers! All of our goaltenders had good seasons and Adam Carman was Goaltender of the Year and Brandon Gloska was also a finalist. How awesome is that? Both of these kids came in as unproven guys and just stepped up. How about Jared Levine’s game vs Northwood? What a win that was. All 3 will continue to have to work and battle as goaltender is still by far the hardest position to move up the ladders of hockey in. There are only so many spots. However if teams are looking for tenders well these guys are players you will want between your pipes. On the back end we basically played 6 guys all year. Sean Shepard was a finalist for Defenseman of the Year and was one of the top scoring Dmen in the league. Jared Pignone solidified that pairing and was rock steady all season. Gavin Gray just came on like gang busters and showed he belonged at this level. Tremendous on the breakout and playing a smart and heady game. Consistency every time he was out there. When he went down with the shoulder injury it really hurt us. Kyler Schilling was a warrior. Playing through the pain of a shoulder injury at season’s end. Still battling on every possession. Brendan Albright played hurt all season but battled through it and gave us so many valuable minutes. I am so proud of that young man. Shawn O’Neill complimented them all and went through a very tough spot early in the season and battled through it. I am very proud of him as well as he went jumped into the deep end this season and held his own. We were solid back there all season but having only 6D men I would ever recommend as all of them suffered injuries this season and on games when we only had 3 or 4 of them playing well let’s just say that is not an easy way to win hockey games but we did.
Up front besides Farabee we had 8 guys in the top 40 in league scoring. So many big goals/assists/plays by so many different guys throughout the season. Watching guys come into their own this season was something I was most proud of and took the most joy in. To a man every one of them are ready to move on to the higher levels of hockey if they take the lesson’s learned with them. Everyone can always improve, even the pro’s, and with these guys the success they had this season shows how they have improved and are continuing to do so. Many of them are going to be important pieces of higher level teams next season. I will miss so many of these guys but can’t wait to see where they earn their spots and how they do moving forward in the process.
Tommy Nicholson who was a league All Star has already signed and will be heading to Hawksbury next season. However just about every one of our guys has been invited to top level Jr. A team tryouts in Canada and at the USPHL Premier and Elite levels. I have had Elite Coaches just tell me that they will take anyone of our guys if they want to come play for them. The kids have earned the ability to get a contract before tryouts. That is what the whole goal is. So in no particular order I just want to shout out to Mateo Capriotti and Danny Galvez. Unreal what you guys did this year. Danny was a league all star and played such a solid game for us all season. All 3 zones. He is going to make a coach very happy next season with his team first attitude and work ethic. Mateo just really came on as the season progressed. Some unreal goals and apples off of pure determination and effort. When playing hard and under control he makes so many things happen out there. Tyler Omara was just a steady performer all year. Scored some big goals for us and was consistently very good all season. Kyle Bird and Derek Grillone put up some huge numbers as well and people could not just try to shut down Farabee as these guys made teams pay all season. Griller scored some unreal goals for us this season and plays such a strong gritty game down low. Just a joy to coach and will do big things next season. Birdy put up some huge numbers as well and made big plays over and over again. Whoever was on their line all season definitely benefitted. Zach Zerrahn and Cullen Moran both have magic mitts and scored huge goals for us. These guys are going to go far as well. How about Peter Dziergas? Kid can flat out fly and his game is just getting better and better. He was unreal for us in the playoff stretch run and we aren't here without his efforts. Before going down to a knee injury in Lake Placid Corey Raaflaub was such a huge part of this team. He brought it every day. A joy to coach. I would of killed to have had him and Zack Cornish, who we lost to a badly broken wrist in Toronto, healthy for the playoffs. I truly believe these guys would of made a difference for us in the playoffs. We so missed their energy and drive and personality’s on the ice and in the locker room. I wish for them full recoveries. Just fantastic kids. Hard luck award this season has to go to Nick Sanborn who had not 1, not 2, but 3 major shoulder injuries. Came back 2 different times and if we had won I would not of been surprised to see him again in a week. Jeremy Cook joined us mid season as well and just worked very hard and has an attitude that will bring him success in the future. He has a work ethic that will do that for him.
As for the games. There were some unreal games. The comeback vs Jersey Shore to get to the Final Four. The comeback and OT vs South Shore. The Compuware game. The bombing of the Aviators on their home ice. The OT heartbreak in Boston. Beating Team China twice. The Florida games. The Toronto Tourney and the OT vs the Red Wings and heart break vs Don Mills. The huge win in Lake Placid vs Northwood. The battle vs the USPHL Elite Champion Jr. Bruins in Lake Placid where we held our own. The blow outs where we showed how good we could be. What an unreal season. So many memories that will hopefully last these kids a lifetime.
In closing this out I want to just say thank you to all of the boys for their efforts this season. For being a part of my team. We all know what the start of this season was like. As I have told you many times this season I will always be here for you if you need me. I want to thank the parents for allowing the boys to do this. For supporting me and for supporting your sons in this craziness. It is such a huge commitment you make and I can only hope your sons understand that.
A special thanks to Mike Gray for all of his help with the website this season. To Jess Cornell for his help as well. To Dave and Val Capriotti. Dave’s help on the bench and behind the scenes is something I will never forget. The same with Val. She took some of the load off me this season in hotels and planning and I can’t tell you how much that helped me. I have to thank Tony Cianfarano for all of his help and being a great trainer at our games. To Dave Vivenzo who has one of the biggest hearts ever, thank you for all you do for me and for the boys on this team. To Joe Palmer for coming to work with our goaltenders. To Kyle Palmer and the rink staff for allowing our team the access we get at Cicero to extra ice and the workout facility. To my wife Kelly thanks for letting me do all of this for as long as I have. To all of the folks who wrote nice comments and followed along with us on FaceBook and Twitter. Thank you! It is so cool to know that folks are invested in what the team was doing.
Last but certainly not least I have to thank my co coach and one of my best friends. Jamie Huff you are quite simply the man. I would not want to do this without you being a part of it. Many have no idea what you put yourself through to be a part of this with me and to be there for these kids. You have my undying respect and you always will. If our players learned anything at all I hoped they learned what a true love of the game was from you.
Thanks again everyone and the very best to all of you in your season’s ahead.