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Talking Finnish Goalies With Coach Jukka Ropponen

 

 

The Finnish goaltending program once again earned praise from the wider hockey community during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

It’s not the first time the Scandinavian nation has been applauded for its efforts between the pipes, nor will it be the last, as the number of elite Finnish netminders continues to rise.

But how has Finland set itself apart when it comes to perhaps the most specialised position in all of sport?

I asked goaltending guru Jukka Ropponen what set Finnish hockey on this path, how it has helped develop not only goaltenders, but also goalie coaches, and what the Finns can teach other nations.

Ropponen makes the initial decision to focus on goaltending sound very simple.

“The Finnish Ice Hockey Association decided twenty-plus years ago that this was one of the areas we needed to focus on,” Ropponen said. “They started the program, and budgeted for it so it was supported.”

The results of this decision are plain to see. Heading in to Sochi, Tuukka Rask headed up a group of goaltenders which can only be described as the envy of the hockey world. The Bruins No.1 was expected to take the starting role at the Olympics, but was vying with Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi for much of the season before finally getting the nod.

With veteran Niklas Backstrom and Pekka Rinne, who might have been on the plane to Sochi were it not for his hip injury, also established NHL stars, it’s hard not to marvel at how this relatively small nation keeps turning out elite goaltenders.

With prospects like Antti Raanta and Sami Aittokallio, Finnish goaltenders are sure to play their part in the NHL for the next decade at least. But the program’s success does not stop in the men’s game, with Noora Räty a household name following her heroics for the Finnish women’s team in Sochi. The national goaltending program has become a great equalizer for the Finns against larger hockey nations like Canada and Russia on both sides of the sport.

A large part of this success has been down to the presence of goalie coaches at all levels of Finnish hockey, with almost every club having dedicated help on hand for the goaltenders.

The remarkable thing is that this isn’t something the Finnish Ice Hockey Association  had to force on the domestic game – it has come about naturally.

“It’s not mandatory by any rules, rather by attitude” Ropponen said, adding “It’s what you have to do if you want to be competitive.”

One area the Association has helped the system to develop is ensuring goalie coaches are being trained properly, and that the information is being put out there to aid coaches’ development, as well as players

“Like everywhere in the world, there’s not enough sharing; but the Association still has very good educational program that puts three-digits worth of goalie coaches through every year.” Ropponen told me.

That’s a truly mind boggling number for someone based in the United Kingdom, where goalie coaches can be hard to find. But that commitment to the program within Finnish hockey has helped Ropponen and his colleagues become some of the most respected goaltending coaches in the world.

The 55-year old’s Goaliepro clinics have helped countless netminders of all ages and abilities, and as a result GoaliePro has gained a reputation as a top goaltending school, with a client list that includes Backstrom of the Minnesota Wild.

“People follow our pro clients closely, and their success has been the main reason for our credibility. Once you earn the reputation and keep up your quality, it is easy to get the needed support,” Ropponen said.

Perhaps the most admirable part of GoaliePro’s setup is the mentoring program for other goalie coaches, sharing their experience and knowledge with other coaches from around the world.

“I have trained coaches at U.S., Canada, Finland, Switzerland, Estonia and Russia and people in all these places have been hungry to learn” Ropponen explained, highlighting the interest the Finnish goaltending program has stirred up across the hockey community.

While Canadian hockey ponders why there is a lower percentage of top-level netminders being produced by the largest hockey setup in the world, Finland is passing on its experience for the betterment of all.

I finished by asking Ropponen what it would take for other nations to emulate the success Finland has had with their goaltending program.

“A country would need a well-defined program, and a person with right knowledge, credibility and attitude to run it,” he said. “Plus of course the budget to support it.”

When great goaltending can make such a different to a team – or nation’s – fortunes, it’s a wonder more have not looked to embrace the Finnish philosophy. But while nations like Sweden and Switzerland seem to have cottoned on to this ‘revolution’, some sadly still don’t seem to put the same stock in goaltending.

Perhaps one day the most important position will be given the support it needs, and arguably deserves, by all federations. Until then, those that want to learn know where to go – and those clubs and countries will reap the benefits, just as the Finns have.

 

Road to the NHL: Alex Galchenyuk

 

MONTREAL – Veteran head coach Bruno Bragagnolo will always remember hearing about – and seeing – Alex Galchenyuk for the first time.

“I got a call from a friend of mine, Gerry Fraser, who was down in Florida back in 2009. The Galchenyuks were there along with two other Russian players, and one day Gerry saw Alex running and working out on the beach. He went up to Alex’s dad, and the two of them started talking. Mr. Galchenyuk mentioned that Alex eventually wanted to play in the OHL. Gerry told him about the program we had going with the Chicago Young Americans [in the Midwest Elite Hockey League], and recommended that he give me a call. We’d sent a lot of players to the OHL before, so we eventually had a chat,” recalled Bragagnolo, who after speaking with Mr. Galchenyuk suggested that Alex – who was 15 years old at the time – come up to the Windy City to take part in one of the squad’s summer skates.

“Two days later, Alex came up with his whole family. He gets on the ice, and five minutes later I told Mr. Galchenyuk I wanted to do everything we could for Alex to play in Chicago that season. I said to myself – “I’ve got to get this kid. I’ve got to get this boy in our lineup playing U16,” added Bragagnolo. “I saw the very high skill level. His vision on the ice was incredible. He knew where everybody was. Alex just had that something special. You could tell he was the real deal. You could tell he was a hockey player.”

One month later, the Galchenyuks relocated to Illinois, moving into a home about a mile from the Young Americans’ home rink.

“They actually became legal guardians of the other two Russian boys, [defensemen] Artyom Sergeyev and Maxim Zverev, so they came along to Chicago and played with us, too. I even hired Alex’s father as an assistant coach. He had so much experience and such a great hockey background. It made perfect sense,” mentioned Bragagnolo, who was immediately impressed with the way in which Alex, Artyom and Maxim went about their business under Mr. Galchenyuk’s supervision.

According to Bragagnolo, a typical day for the three young guns consisted of a two-hour skating session in the morning during which they’d do a variety of high-intensity drills and work on high-end moves and basic skills. Then, they’d come back to the rink in the evening for off-ice workouts and practice until 9:30 p.m., before either lifting weights for 90 minutes or going swimming at a local YMCA. Bragagnolo estimates the trio was putting in four to five hours of on-ice training daily.

“In Alex’s case, I don’t think he even realized he was working hard. I think it was just ingrained in him since childhood. He enjoyed that aspect of it. That kid, any time he was doing any kind of workout or walking into the rink, he was always smiling. He really enjoyed himself. He enjoyed being a hockey player,” shared Bragagnolo. “I would drive by the park near their place in the afternoon going somewhere, and they were all playing roller hockey. That was after they’d skated and worked out in the morning, when they should have been resting before coming back to skate at night.”

Their dedication to the game, however, certainly didn’t stop there.

“When the boys first got to Chicago, I had a van that we used to use as kind of a mobile concession stand at the arena. We used it for picking up supplies, too. I told Alex he could use it instead of going out and buying a car. It was old, but it ran well. I go by their house one day, and Alex has the windows down on both sides of the van. The boys are saucering pucks through the windows working on their passes,” offered Bragagnolo with a laugh, still somewhat in awe of the rather non-traditional training activity. “That tells you something about Alex and his family. When you talk about eating, drinking and sleeping hockey, that’s what they were all about.”

But, Bragagnolo says, Alex didn’t necessarily get off to a roaring start in his first foray into the North American ranks. As expected, it took a while for the Canadiens’ No. 27 to grow increasingly comfortable with the style of play in Minor Midget AAA on this side of the pond.

“I think the first couple of months, he was hitting crossbars and posts galore. There was an adjustment period to the smaller rink and more physical play over here. He wasn’t used to that back home. Not that he was shy in terms of contact. He’d give it back. It just took some time for him to figure things out. But, when he finally did, he was far and above the best player in the league that year. It wasn’t even close,” praised Bragagnolo, who watched Galchenyuk steadily hit his stride and never look back, featuring him primarily at center all year long. “And, we were playing in a pretty good league with Honeybaked players [from Michigan]. He was absolutely dominant, which wasn’t easy to do. That last half of the season, he singlehandedly carried the team on his back. He was on a tear. He couldn’t be stopped.”

That was particularly evident at a showcase event the Young Americans took part in later in the year in Detroit. With plenty of eyes watching his every move, Galchenyuk stole the show once again, garnering plenty of interest from OHL clubs aplenty.

“I remember us going up against Honeybaked in the third game of this weekend set. Back then, we’d play four or five games on Saturday and Sunday. It was a brutal schedule. So, we’re down a couple of guys who were sick, and Alex went ahead and singlehandedly beat this team. He made them look sick, themselves, scoring three goals and adding three assists. After that game, I think every OHL team and DI college was lining up waiting to talk to him,” offered Bragagnolo. “Right there, I had a feeling he was going to be the top pick in the OHL. That game, Honeybaked was sending two guys or three guys at him at a time, and Alex just kept making them miss. He took his game to another level that day that I’d never seen before. It was just his will. He was going to do whatever it took to win that hockey game.”

Galchenyuk closed the year with 44 goals and 87 points in 38 games, an astounding 33 points clear of the league’s second-highest point-getter, before ultimately being selected first overall by the Sarnia Sting in the 2010 OHL Priority Draft. It was a just reward for a highly-skilled teen, who had come a long way in such a short time period.

“He was just so far advanced back then compared to everybody else. It was almost scary. He had a real presence to go along with that uncanny creativity and drive. I learned a long time ago that kids with that type of work ethic and talent are a rare breed. You can’t teach things like that. Alex was playing for the pure love of the game,” concluded Bragagnolo, who, interestingly enough, had Galchenyuk work on his autograph from time to time that season in preparation for the move up to the Junior ranks. “And, he really was the only player I could ever say that I knew for sure was going to be an NHLer. There was no doubt in my mind. I think everybody knew it. He’s a phenomenal kid, a phenomenal player and he’s lucky enough to be from a phenomenal family.”

 

Article by Jonathan Quick?

 

How many times have you heard this line before? "Aw come on, it wasn't a great save. He shot it right into the goalie's glove!"

It always bothers me when people use this to discredit an amazing glove save, because I feel like it means that people don't understand the beauty of my position. In the NHL, 90 percent of the save happens before the player shoots the puck. As a goalie, if you're relying on your reaction time to make saves, you're going to get yanked in a hurry. Keeping pucks out of the net is mostly about intuition and geometry. You're watching the puck carrier and processing all of the guy's options on the ice, plus you're looking at his feet, hands and body positioning. Is he shooting? High or low? Where's his passing lane? What's the play here?

All the variables add up and tell you everything you need to make a decision. Instantly, your brain tells you to push out to the top of the crease and make yourself "big" to close down the angle on the shooter, or to cheat your weight a little bit to push off and cover the pass. Before the shot even comes, most of your work is done. You've committed and you just hope you've made the right decision.

Let me give you an example. This is probably one of my most famous saves.

The thing is, that save has very little to do with my hand-eye coordination. Actually, the first part of it has nothing to do with me, period. If my defenseman Drew Doughty doesn't go down and smartly take away the cross-crease pass here, I'm dead in the water. You can tell that Kane wanted to pass, because his eyes and hips are facing away from the net at first. Thankfully, Drew had my back. Next, I see Kane turn his skates toward the goal, so I stack my pads to take away the bottom of the net. Again, if he has a passing lane here, I'm toast. Thankfully my other defenseman is locking up the off-side winger. Finally, I see Kane's weight shift and his hips open up, and I know he's going high. So I lift my glove as high as I can and just pray.

You can call it lucky if you want, but it actually involved four different variables that unfolded in a matter of 1.5 seconds. For some reason, when you're on the ice, time tends to slow down and it actually feels like about seven seconds.

There are certain complexities to the game at the NHL level that can only be explained if you’ve seen them firsthand on the ice. That’s why I wanted to write this piece explaining what makes Elite Snipers so difficult to deal with for goaltenders.

Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry

I'm going to cheat a little bit and include these two as a package deal. Two words come to mind when I think about the Anaheim Ducks: Heavy minutes. A minute of them playing in your zone is equivalent to a minute and a half of another team, just because they play behind your net so much. So you have to be deep in your stance and on full alert a lot more and your legs start to really feel it by the third period.

Getzlaf and Perry have tremendous vision when possessing the puck on the perimeter. Even with their back to the play, they have an elite ability to make quick decisions and pick the seams in the defense. They use their big bodies to play keep-away behind the net, which forces me to scramble from post to post, and also wears down my defensemen. Then they'll spin to the front of the net and try to create multiple rebounds and general mayhem. They may not even score, but those heavy minutes kind of soften you up a bit for the next line.

There's obviously a ton of emphasis on puck possession in the media and in NHL locker rooms with the advanced stats movement really growing. But I think it's about the kind of possession you have. Some teams might have a lot of puck possession in your zone, but they're really not in threatening positions. They might be cycling the puck around on the perimeter and throwing some stuff on net, but that's pretty easy to deal with. With Getzlaf and Perry, it feels like every second of their in-zone time is threatening.

In the NHL, everyone shoots the puck well. But most guys need the puck in the right spot in order to be really dangerous. The really top-tier shooters like Getzlaf and Perry can be holding the puck five feet outside of their body, or they could have it in their feet, and yet they can still get it off with mustard. That changes the whole calculus for me as a goalie. The best shooters aren't necessarily the hardest shooters the best shooters are the guys who can drastically change the angles of their release.

Watch how Getzlaf has the puck out super-wide here and then pulls it into his feet in an instant. It's not about what Getzlaf sees. It's what the puck sees. The "openings" from the point of view of the puck are entirely different in a matter of 0.5 seconds.

If an average shooter has the puck in that position, you'd be thinking, Alright, he's off-balance on one foot. He's not going to get a lot on this. Getzlaf roofs it before Howard can even react. Also notice the screen in front of Howard, another Ducks trademark.

Pavel Datsyuk

Datsyuk is probably the most deceptive player in the NHL. He's a magician in the way that he's able to hide the puck on his stick. Part of that is his hardware. He uses a type of blade that is pretty unusual in the league. It's a lot thicker from top to bottom, and somehow when you combine this with his quick release and the fact that he's hardly ever looking at the net when he shoots, it's extremely difficult to track the puck coming off his blade.

Like I said above, 90 percent of the save happens before the guy releases the puck. Most guys have a little tell. You look at where the puck is in relation to their feet, or the way they're bending their knees to get ready to shoot, and you just know what's going to happen before it happens. But the problem with Datsyuk is that he fools you with his intentions. He will be way out on the wall with his hands, feet, and eyes positioned for a cross-ice pass and it's the right decision. It's what 99 percent of players will do in that situation. So you instantly start cheating your eyes over to where he's going to pass. Next thing you know what the hell? the puck is behind you in the net. He shot it. Who shoots from there? Datsyuk shoots from there.

I'd call Datsyuk a master chess player. As a goalie, your nightmare is when the puck carrier has multiple options. Datsyuk has a knack for seeing the entire ice and holding onto the puck until space opens up and he has a couple different plays he can make. He kind of stretches you and forces you to get caught in the middle of taking away the shot or taking away the pass. You have to commit to one or you're toast. It's a 50-50 gamble sometimes with him.

Sidney Crosby

The best backhand shot in the league. I think it might’ve been my first or second year as a pro, and he scored on me from like the hash mark on the wall. Not with a forehand. With a backhand that beat me far corner. That's pretty much unheard of. You should stop that 100 out of 100, but he got it off so quick and the puck came in so hot that I didn’t even know it was in the net until his hands were in the air. It was ridiculous.

Crosby just does everything so well. When you're in the locker room before a game, you look at the two or three stars on the other team and you try to figure out how to make them play to their weaknesses. You point to a name on the whiteboard and say, "Alright, he's not good at X, so let's force him to do it as much as possible." There's not a single part of Crosby's game that we can take advantage of. He’s simply an all-around unbelievable hockey player.

Like I said before, it's all about multiple options. If Crosby is able to beat his man and get one-on-one with a goalie, it's just unfair. His blade is almost completely flat, which combined with his ridiculous forearm strength gives him the ability to go forehand to your five hole instantly or turn it over to the backhand and roof it (a lot of guys can't do this with a flat blade). Sometimes I'll see him on TV coming down on a goalie and it's like, Oh boy, here we go. Crosby will be stickhandling it front of him and then he'll go five hole so fast that it's like he barely touched the puck. The goalie won't even react. It's because he’s frozen. There’s no safe bet. If Crosby goes backhand, the goalie has to push off hard to slide across, so he has no choice but to be deep in his stance with the five hole open. Bad news.

To piggyback on that idea a little bit, when you look at the best guys in the league at the shootout, they all have three or four really good moves, but they all start out exactly the same way. Look at T.J. Oshie. He’ll pick the puck up and take a similar route toward the net every time. He’ll stick handle it in a similar way every time. And then when he gets to a certain spot, he has four moves that branch off from there. You don’t really know what he’s going to do until he does it. So it forces the goalie to make a reactionary save, which is much more difficult.

Alexander Ovechkin

Obviously, he's got a heavy, heavy shot. But I'll go back to the theme of unpredictability again with Ovi. We played them in L.A. this season and he came down on a two-on-one rush. Ovi didn’t have the puck he was the passing threat on my right side. He’s a right-handed shot, so he was in the perfect position for a one-timer. So I see him open up his hips, and I’m thinking, Okay, obviously he’s a huge threat right now. But he kept drifting backward to the point where he was so far wide that my brain was naturally like, There’s no way. And the guy still made the pass over to him. He must have been two feet from the wall. I took his position for granted because he was so far out, and somehow he wired it so hard that I didn't even have a chance. Look at the leverage he was able to get on his shot while floating away from the net.

Guys like Ovi shoot it so hard that it's almost like you're a batter in baseball. You see the blur of the puck coming at you in frames. One frame, two frames … by the third frame it's already hitting you. If you’re trying to make a reaction save against Ovi, you’re already beat. You better already be at the top of the crease cutting off the angle.

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane

I'm cheating again with his duo. It's not a coincidence these guys are in the Conference Finals or Stanley Cup Finals seemingly every year. Unlike Getzlaf and Perry, these guys do very different things, but they complement one another perfectly. I don't think I've ever seen two guys play with more confidence in themselves. They just seem to have an unwavering belief that they'll find a way to win.

Let's start with Kane. Even though he's a smaller guy, he has a top-tier release and I think he's actually a little bit underrated in terms of his hockey intelligence. He's one of the best in the NHL at seeing the ice and reading defenders. A lot of guys with his natural skill level would maybe coast and wait for their chances, but Kane is constantly scanning the ice and processing where the play is going, and where he can pop into open space for a good opportunity. And, of course, his hands are ridiculous. Kane's stickhandling quickness is probably the best in the NHL. Almost every game, he makes a defenseman look silly by catching them cheating on the pokecheck, then he goes right through their tripod (between the stick and legs) with the dangle.

When a guy like Kane is on the ice, you immediately take notice as a goalie. He's on your radar constantly as the play is unfolding. But add in Toews to the mix and it's a totally different level. The thing with Toews is that he is constantly moving, constantly working, and possesses an unholy ability to know where the puck is going before it even happens. He's like a psychic out there. I hate to use words like “intangibles,” but it's very difficult to describe how Toews is always able to find himself in the right place at the right time, especially in big moments.

If Anaheim is hard minutes physically, Chicago is hard minutes mentally. You have to constantly be tracking the movements of Kane and Toews because you're paranoid that Kane is going to float back door and Toews is going to know he's there without even looking up. And I think that's why hockey is such an interesting game to break down. Most people think of hockey as this brutal game (and it definitely can feel that way when you get hit with a Shea Weber slap shot below the belt) but it's really a mental game more than anything. Chicago has won three of the last six Stanley Cups. Kane and Toews aren't the biggest guys in the world, but they're incredibly intelligent, mentally tough and have amazing intuition when playing together.

Man, I want to beat them so bad. Let's get this season started already (sorry, honey).

 

Soo goalie Chad Catt makes NCAA DI commitment

By Randy Russon

The Soo Eagles of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) are pleased to announce that goaltender Chad Catt has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey at the University of Michigan in the Big 10.
 
The 1994 birth-year, puck-stopping sensation led the Eagles to a third-place, regular-season finish in the North Division of the North American Hockey League after being acquired from the Aberdeen Wings at the February 6th trade deadline.
 
Catt (5’10/190) had a 7-4-3 record with a .920 save percentage and 2.25 goals against average after joining the Eagles from Aberdeen, where he had played parts of three NAHL seasons. Catt was selected to and played in the 2015 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament for the Central Division team as he was originally selected for Aberdeen before the trade deadline. 
 
A native of Williamstown, Michigan, Catt has carried his regular-season play into the playoffs. In a three-game, opening-round sweep of the Keystone Ice Miners, Catt stopped 104 of 106 shots for a .981 save percentage and 0.65 goals against average.
 
In getting an NCAA Division 1, Big 10 commitment to play at prestigious U of M, Catt’s hard work has paid off, according to Eagles coach-general manager Bruno Bragagnolo.
 
“I have been coaching a long time, 35 years now, and I have never had a goalie who has the work ethic and commitment to excellence that Chad has,” said Bragagnolo. “Not only is Chad a great goalie, he’s a great kid,” said Bragagnolo. “We couldn’t be happier for him.”
 
Catt has appeared in 89 career regular season games in three years. He posted a career record of 42-36-9, a career goals against average of 2.48 and a career save percentage of 92.2%. 71 of his 89 career regular season games were played with the Aberdeen Wings.
 
Good As Gould Goalie Jimmy Bertane, of Glenbard High School, win's State Title at the United Center on Sunday! 39 save's in a 4-3 win. Congratulation's!
 
Former Goalie School Student of the Good As Gould Goalie School has a new job with the Chicago Blackhawks. " we at the Gould Goalie School are very proud of Andrew's hard work on and off the ice". "He will be a big asset to the Chicago Blackhawks organization".
 
Soo Eagles Added Goalie Consultant and Goalie Scout Stu Gould to the Staff from the Gould Goalie School.
 
" its a thrill for me to work with Head Coach Bruno Bragagnolo, goalie coach Billy Vanderleist and the rest of the staff in trying to help bring the best goalies possible to the Soo Eagles of the NAHL"
 
Idaho Steelheads rookie making an impact

Charlie Dodero didn't hold anything back. Anticipating a pass on the power play, he was ready to shoot with his stick high and he blasted a shot past Alaska's goaltender Monday night.

"I knew I had a lane to the net. I wanted to get it hard and get it through," Dodero said after scoring his first postseason goal.

Dodero, a 22-year-old from the Chicago suburbs who played the previous four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, has developed into one of the Steelheads' best defensemen as they play deeper into the ECHL Western Conference playoffs.

Idaho lost 5-2 on Monday and trails Alaska 2-1 in their best-of-seven semifinal series. Game 4 is Wednesday night at CenturyLink Arena. Game 5 is Thursday night.

"He's one of our go-to, shutdown defensemen. He's playing really well. He's a first-year player that is playing like a fifth-year player,'' coach Brad Ralph said.

Ralph spotted Dodero at the NHL Prospect Tournament in Michigan in September. The tournament brings together prospects from eight NHL teams for a weeklong showcase. Dodero was playing for the New York Rangers' team.

The stands were filled with NHL general managers, scouts and coaches from all levels of professional hockey.

"I had a blast. Being able to play in front of that caliber of people and play against that caliber of player is pretty cool, too,'' Dodero said.

Said Ralph, who was immediately impressed: "He could skate and he played nasty." Good attributes in a defenseman, Ralph put Dodero on his list.

Dodero started the season with Greenville of the ECHL, but the Road Warriors were stocked with older, established defenders. Dodero played in 14 of the first 24 games. As a young player, he needed more ice time.

"When I had the chance to get him, I knew we had to do it," Ralph said.

Said Dodero: "I needed to play and develop. That was the only way I'd be able to move on in the ranks of pro hockey."

He joined the Steelheads for their Dec. 28 game at Las Vegas - and has played in all 53 games (44 regular season and nine playoff games) since. Dodero had four goals and 15 assists in the regular season. He's added one goal and three assists in the playoffs. His offense, secondary to his defense, is coming along.

"He works extremely hard to improve his game. I think that says a lot about his drive," Ralph said. "When you're in the ECHL trying to move up, you're drive and motivation is everything. There's no questioning that with him."

That desire is evident when the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Dodero battles opposing forwards for position in front of the Steelheads' net or fights in the corners for pucks. His style seems to infuriate foes and he often takes shots post-whistle from frustrated opponents.

"He definitely likes to grind it out, in the tough areas in front of the net and in the corners. He likes to try and get under guys' skin a bit," said Damon Kipp, who has been playing alongside Dodero on defense this postseason. "He gets under the right guys."

It's part of that "nasty" streak Ralph saw in Michigan. Dodero, like any good defenseman, makes things uncomfortable. He says it's been like that his whole life.

"I've always had to scrap and compete for every inch and every ounce of respect that I had, even through minor hockey. I had to go through a lot from people not believing in me," he said.

"Compete comes with work ethic. I feel if I don't work my hardest, I'm not giving myself the best chance to succeed and if I'm not working my hardest, it definitely shows out there."

 
Gould Goalie School is right around the corner. There are just a couple of spots left in Camp 1, Camp 2, and Camp 3 don't get shut out.
Click here to sign up.
 
In-form Zacharias ready for Steelers

American goaltender Mike Zacharias admits qualifying for the Rapid Solicitors Elite League play-offs has given Genting Casino Coventry Blaze renewed confidence.

Blaze booked a top-eight spot - and a two-legged quarter-final tie with Sheffield Steelers - courtesy of a 1-0 overtime win over Cardiff Devils at a sold out Skydome last Sunday on the final day of the regular season.

Zacharias heads into the play-offs in fine form having made 34 saves in the 2-0 defeat to Steelers last Saturday before posting a 33-shot shut-out - his second of the campaign - against Devils, being named the man of the match in both games.

The 28-year-old Minnesota native, who has a 91.1 saves percentage, said: "It was a huge relief to make the play-offs because we cut it a little close. There were a bunch of scenarios going into the final weekend but we did what we had to do.

"It was a surprise to see us in a battle for a play-off spot. We started the season really good but we got hit by the injury bug which hurt us in the middle of the season and we never got back to full strength. At times things just didn't go our way but for the most part the effort was there.

"You want to go into this time of the year playing your best hockey and I am feeling confident. My goal is to just give the team a chance to win and in the past week I hope I have given the team confidence.

"The stakes are higher now and one mistake and that could be the season. But we are at home first and I think that gives us an advantage. We will be looking to get a good start and go there ahead and see where it takes us."

Meanwhile, Blaze forward Ryan Ginand - the leading point-scorer in the Elite League with 97 - has been named in the All-Star First Team chosen by Ice Hockey Journalists UK.

Blaze take on Sheffield Steelers at the Skydome in the Rapid Solicitors Elite League play-off quarter-final first leg on Saturday March 29 (7pm face-off). Tickets can be purchased by ringing the Box Office on 02476 630693 (option 0).

 
Loyola Maroon 2014 State Champs!
 
My good friend Kenny McCudden 
Kenny McCudden has been involved in every level of hockey imaginable on every kind of frozen pond.

He's held the hands of mites as they've tentatively navigated their way around a sheet of ice for the first time. He's also managed to stroke the egos of multimillion dollar NHLers as they've tried to gain an edge - literally and figuratively - during summer off-season training.

This week, McCudden takes off for Sochi, Russia, and the culmination of something truly special. McCudden is the skating and skills coach for the United States women's Olympic hockey team, which includes Buffalo Grove native Megan Bozek, a defenseman.

"You work hard for something for two-and-a-half years to be part of it, and that's your goal, to be part of it," said McCudden, a resident of Crystal Lake. "I'm honored. I'm privileged. And it took a lot of hard work to get to this point, to be part of the program and to keep on moving on within the program, the women's national program.

"The two-and-a-half years of traveling North America with them, from New York City to Minnesota, every time I got called upon, which was a lot, whether you're running camps or running skills sessions for the women's national team, it was a real treat to get with the women."

In hockey circles, McCudden is best known as the skating and skills coach of the Chicago Wolves, who have been playing professional hockey in Rosemont for the last 20 years, winning four championships.

He works with hockey players year-round on skills such as skating, passing, shooting and stickhandling.

McCudden has been involved in coaching and teaching hockey skills since the late 1980s, when he hooked up with former Blackhawk Grant Mulvey, who went on to become the first general manager of the Wolves.

Over the years, McCudden has been a fixture at Chicago-area ice houses, putting on clinics and working tirelessly with players at every level, from morning until the Zamboni has made its last run of the night.

"I live in ice skates," he said. "There was a group of parents telling me, 'Coach, how many hours for you today?' I said it was a lighter day today, six hours on the ice. A lighter day. They go, 'Come on, what's a heavy day?' I go, 'A heavy day is eight hours. Six is more than enough.' They said, 'How do you keep the passion going?' I said, 'I was called upon to do this. I love it.'

"I'd be cheating your kids if I didn't bring out the passion of yelling their names and being a part of it and getting involved in the drills. I wouldn't be the right coach. But yeah, I want to be at this until somebody tells me I can no longer do it."

McCudden thanked U.S. general manager Reagan Carey for bringing him aboard in the first place and giving him the news that he also would be traveling to Sochi.

With the women's team, McCudden is able to channel his passion into an entirely new area.

"It brought out new passion because it was a part of my teaching I had never been involved in," he said. "I had never been involved in the women's game. So it was something completely new. Having that privilege of being able to do it and stay with it was phenomenal.

"But it brought a new passion coming back to Illinois hockey, whether it be with the Chicago Wolves or whether it be with kids hockey because it was something new in my life, really, really new. That was the women's game. I had never been involved in it. I've taught girls, but not women."

And these women are pretty good. They go into the Olympics with gold in sight. But so does their archrival, Canada, as well as Finland.

McCudden is hoping his input can make a difference, but the U.S. women's team is giving him a lot to work with.

"They're at the top of their game," he said. "To be quite honest with you, I didn't think they would be able to shoot the puck as well as they shoot the puck. And I didn't think they'd be able to zing the puck around passing it as well as they can pass it. I knew they would be very, very disciplined athletes, but where they really shocked me was with their passing and shooting.

"So when I got on the ice with them the first time, that's what really got to me, meaning that I didn't think they could move the puck like that. I knew they could play positional play. I knew they could skate. But I didn't think the puck movement and shooting would be the same. I was blown away."

The women's game lacks only the legal hitting of the men's game, but what McCudden teaches is universal, no matter who is playing.

"Even a pro player, if they can't zip the puck around or they can't place the puck, they're not going to be playing at the highest level," he said.

Now all that's left is for the players to go out and play. McCudden will be looking on with pride.

"I think the all-around progression since I've been involved, seeing the final product, taking it to one of the biggest stages on Earth in sport, when it's clicking, just the speed of their game is such a pleasure to watch," he said. "Whether they're playing in the World Championships, which is the next-closest thing to the Olympics, and you see where it's coming as a team, all the way to these preliminary game against Canada, where you see it really, really clicking, it's a process. Trying to build a team those four years is such a process."

 
Good As Gould Goalie Coach Zach Drane

It was a great weekend for our Charger teams competing in this weekend's MLK tournaments in Pittsburgh, PA and Ann Arbor, MI. The tournament organizers of both tournaments did an excellent job constructing brackets so that all teams had competitive and balanced competition.

Congratulations to Randy Sowizrol's Bantam 2 team which won their championship game 2-1. Scoring was provided with a goal from Pablo Garland assisted by Braydon Klippel, and the other goal from Mike O'Sullivan assisted by Henry Griffin. Chase McKellar backstopped the team in goal leading them to the victory.

After going undefeated in their first 4 tournament games, Billy Martin's Mite 2 team finally met its match in a tough fought 6-3 loss to the Maulers.

Steve Klima's Squirt 1 team had its Championship run stopped in a 4-2 loss. Having just won the Christmas Classic tournament, they were hoping to go back to back in tournament play. This game was a hard fought affair, and was a 1 goal game with the Phantoms getting an empty net goal at the end of the game.

In what was the most exciting game that I witnessed all weekend, Eric Vesely's Squirt 2 team came back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game in regulation. After no scoring in two overtimes, they unfortunately lost in a shootout. Ty Nagy had the lone shootout goal for the team. Yianno Nikas was stellar between the pipes having previously posted consecutive shutouts to get the Squirts into the Championship game today.

Rich Kuzmeski's Midget Minor CS team showed true determination in a 2-1 loss to the Ontario Junior AA Knights team. The Midgets lost to the Knights in round robin play 6-0, but came out strong in the final game. They played the Knights even until the final minutes of play when the Knights were able to take the lead. Goaltender Max Johnson had an unbelievable game in net today, and kept them in it to the end.

Thanks to all of the parents, players and coaches for their efforts this weekend. A special recognition to goaltender coach Zach Drane as our goaltender play was excellent this past weekend and a major driver of our team's successes. During our squirt game, the referee actually stopped by our bench to comment that he had officiated several different Charger level games and our goaltending was the best of all the teams he had witnessed.

GO CHARGERS!

 

Making Saves with Goalie Coach, Stu Gould

 
 
Michael Zacharias stopping a penalty shot during Coventry's 4-2 win over Cardiff on Saturday.  Michael had 40 shots and was named "Man of the Match".  Notice the expression of the fan in the upper right corner of the picture.
 
Michael Zacharias Gould Goalie School Instructor Puts on a Show in Europe
Michael and the Coventry Blaze had a great weekend, going 2-0, one of which was a 5-0 shutout on the road over then top-ranked Belfast. Michael was named "Man of the Match" for that game. Michael stopped 70 of 71 shots for the two games, including a penalty shot. Coventry finally found its scoring touch as they outscored their two opponents 11-1 this weekend. The scores may seem lopsided, but the shots were not. Overall the shots were 74-71 this weekend. Coventry had a hot goalie, while the other two teams did not.
 
Marino Ramirez, a Good As Gould Goalie, made the Squirt 2003. We are very proud of him. Marino was at two Good As Gould Goalie School's this summer and won the hardest worker award.
 
Nick Greco, a Good As Gould Goalie, made the Bantam Minor 2000 AAA at Team IL. As his Goalie Coach, we are very proud of him. Nick will be at the Goalie School Camp #4 July29th to Aug 2 2013 at Center Ice.
 
Drew Palena made, the 2003 AAA Florida Alliance Team which will represent the state of Florida in out a state tournament, is a Gould Goalie School Goalie from the Jason Ritchie Camp. We are very proud of Drew. Drew will be in camp 2 at the Gould Goalie School July 15th-19th at Addison Ice Rink.
 
Nicky Abraham, a Good As Gould Goalie at our Goalie School, made the Fury AAA Pee-wee major's. We are Very proud of him!
 
Admirals youth Goalie Matt O'Donnell who played for the Admirals Youth Squirt Elite in Glen Ellyn IL. , made the CYA AAA 02'. As his Goalie Coach, we are very Proud of him.
MADORE EAGER TO IMPRESS
In this topsy-turvy season – the first half of which was characterized by the NHL’s lockout and the second by a never-ending glut of injuries across the organization – roles can and have changed in an instant.

That’s been most true of goaltending, with Rob Madore the latest player to jump headfirst into an unexpected opportunity.

After backing up each of his first seven AHL games with no guaranteed playing time in sight, the 24-year-old rookie who spent most of this season in the ECHL is now the Checkers’ No. 1 option. He’ll play his third consecutive game tonight, with Cam Ward, Dan Ellis, Justin Peters and John Muse all on Carolina’s roster for the time being.

With Muse the latest to depart on Monday, Madore has gone from safety net to taking sole possession of the net in short order. Though his energy and practices and happy-go-lucky demeanor off the ice may have suggested he was just happy to be there, make no mistake – it’s a chance he’d been waiting for.

“Every goalie will tell you that they want to be that go-to guy, and I’m no different,” said the University of Vermont product who signed an AHL deal with Charlotte this past offseason. “I like to think that if you work hard in practice and prepare for every game, you’ll be ready to go in and you won’t have to make that adjustment.”

In what small sample size he has at this level, that’s been the case so far. After unexpectedly making his AHL debut in relief of Muse in Houston last Thursday, he stopped all 16 shots he faced. In his first start against the league-leading Texas Stars two days later, he earned a 4-2 victory by making 43 saves – the most by a Checkers goaltender since October of 2011.

It was a tough assignment for one’s first career start, but one coach Jeff Daniels felt comfortable with.

“He works so hard in practice and he wanted an opportunity to get in the net, and we just felt like he deserved a chance to get in our lineup and show what he could do,” said Daniels. “He did a really good job of holding on to the puck to slow things down when we were under pressure. He definitely gave us a chance to stay in the game.”

As impressive as that debut was, it wasn’t a stellar save that had teammates talking over the next few days. Aside from the speed in which he moves in his net, one particular play in which he sprawled to make a save and then chased a Texas puck carrier behind his net, leaving the goal open, may best describe his energetic presence.

“I’m a little enthusiastic,” he said, not afraid in the slightest to make light of his unorthodox play. “To be completely honest, I’m not really sure what I was thinking. Maybe I was just trying to test our defensive coverage out, because that’s something we’ve been working on.”

Humorous moments aside, teammates already knew that Madore takes his job, whatever that may be at any given time, quite seriously.

“I’m just trying to play the role I’m given each night,” he said. “On the bench, maybe you can provide that energy or give advice based on something you might have seen.”

There’s also his attitude in practice and in pre-game warm-ups, which he seemingly treats like Game Sevens.

“I’m a pretty competitive guy,” he said. “If you ask most of the other guys, they probably get a little annoyed with me because I don’t like to get scored on.”

While Madore is still the starter by default, the Checkers at least have one other goaltender on their roster after Mike Murphy, the team’s former goalie who had just resumed practicing with the team after five months away from pro hockey, signed a professional tryout contract on Tuesday. However, that move was believed to be made due to circumstance – a necessary step to finding an emergency backup – than anything related to the veteran’s ability to play on a regular basis.

That said, the net is Madore’s for the time being, at least until injuries begin to clear up in Carolina. After that it’s anyone’s guess, though strong performances in the meantime, including Tuesday’s start against Norfolk, could at least earn him more of a timeshare with Muse than he had seen previously.

“He’s our option, and he showed the other night what he’s capable of doing,” said Daniels.
 
Jason Ritchie is a hit last week at the Winchendon School with the Boston Bruins Alumni !

Winchendon - Almost immediately after former Winchendon School goalie and graduate Jason Ritchie (class of 2005) lost his life in a tragic accident four years later, his parents knew they had to do "something" to honor his memory and leave a mark on the campus. "It was really his mom (Donna)'s idea", recalled Jason's father, Bob. "She felt right away that we needed to do something, and the mission idea came, literally, within hours of his passing. This was her dream".

And so was launched the Jason Ritchie Hockey Foundation. "For Jason, hockey was probably the hook that kept him in school in the first place, so it just made sense to do this", Bob Ritchie remarked before last Saturday's benefit which featured the Boston Bruins Alumni facing off against the Ritchie Foundation All Stars, the culmination of a day-long series of hockey clinics and events on the Ash Street campus.

During an exclusive interview with the Courier conducted in the ice rink named in Jason's memory and dedicated two years ago this month, Bob Ritchie reflected on his son, and the Foundation, which has awarded thousands of dollars in scholarship money. Some $30,000 was raised on Saturday through donations and ticket sales. "Our goal is to provide mentoring and resources for kids who share Jason's drive and dedication", his father noted. "Jason always wanted to be a goalie. He had that great drive, that determination and dedication to play that position, and we started early because this is what he wanted to do. From the time he was very young, some of my best memories are the time we'd spend driving to and from rinks. You know, hockey practice is always early in the morning, ice time isn't easy to get, and so we'd get up at 4 or 5:00 and hit the road. I remember once asking him what he was thinking or feeling on a breakaway, when he was the only thing between the other team and a goal, and he said, 'I can feel the ice'. Conversations like those - they were really great family times. Those were the best times - the times in between the games and the practices", Ritchie reminisced. "Jason loved the Winchendon School. He loved everything about it. This was the perfect place for him, and we're forever grateful to the school for what everyone here did for him. That's why we chose the Winchendon School as the home for the Foundation.", Ritchie said.

The Ritchies have moved several times because of Bob's work ( president and CEO of American Integrity Insurance Company in Tampa, FL) and while Jason attended the Winchendon School, he lived with former school Vice-President Jack Blair and his wife, Pam, (recently promoted to Assistant Head for Teaching Excellence at the school), whose home has served as a home-away-from-home for numerous Winchendon School students through the years. "We raised boys of our own", noted Jack Blair, who currently sits on the Board of the Ritchie Foundation "and Jason was a pleasure to have live with us. He was one of those kids who had a bounce to his step. He was just a happy-go-lucky kid all the time", Blair said.

When they began the Foundation in 2009, "it wasn't easy. There was a mix of pain and pleasure and while there's more pleasure now in being able to help deserving students, that wasn't the case back then. I hadn't crossed that threshold yet. Donna made a big difference for me. We stayed the course largely because of her", said Bob Ritchie.

On the Foundation's website, there is an observation, "the best way to gain the life skills necessary to succeed is to embrace hockey and all of it's teachings on and off the ice. We honor Jason by helping those in need and giving forward". "That really does sum it up", said Bob Ritchie, while adding, "our focus is on hockey. But we believe it's important for kids to find the activity that stirs their passion, whether it's hockey or theatre or music or baseball. We want to help create success stories", he said.

 
2013 Goalie Schools - Makes great Christmas Gifts!

Camp 1 - Ellenton Ice@Sports Complex-Ellenton FL. A Portion of the proceeds will go to the Jason Ritchie Foundation June 17th to June 21 11:00am to 3:45pm Cost $390.00 Fundamentals Mite, Squirt, PeeWee

Camp 2 - Addison Ice Rink-July 15th to 19th10:30am to 3:00pm Fundamentals-Mite, Squirt, PeeWee Cost $400.00

Camp 3 - Addison Ice Rink- Invite Only-Advanced 12 Goalie's Midget AAA,Juniors, College, Only call Stu July-22 to July 26th 4:00pm to 9:00pm Cost $775.00 Get Off Sweats and Jersey

Camp 4 - Center Ice Of DuPage- July-29th to Aug-2-10:20am to 3:20am Highly Dedicated High School Bantam Goalie's Only Cost $625.00

Camp 5 - Center Ice Of DuPage-Aug-5th to Aug 9th- 9:30am to 1:30pm Fundamentals Mites, Squirts, PeeWee Cost $400.00

Click here to sign up

Goaltender brings a bit of Chicago to IUP hockey

By Josh Carney/Senior Staff Writer
J.T.Carney@iup.edu
Published: Monday, August 27, 2012

 

Looking to secure the starting goaltending job for IUP’s club hockey team, Dante Koeppen, 20, balances a very busy schedule between school and athletics.

Koeppen, a junior sport administration major and a native of Chicago, Ill., makes the trek every year to IUP, pre- paring for another promising school year and season.

“I was originally set to go to Robert Morris University,” Koeppen said. “It wasn’t until [former RMU & IUP Hockey coach] Sean Maloney left Robert Morris and convinced me to come to IUP with him.”

Maloney served as a goaltending coach while at IUP.

Having been around the game of hockey since he was just over 6-months old, it was an easy choice to play club hockey at the college level for Dante.

“My mom would take me to the rink to watch my cousins play, so I was just always around the game,” he said.

Koeppen has been a goalie since he was able to play ice hockey at the age of 5.

“I just went up to my coach one day and asked if I could be a goalie,” he said. “After that, I loved it.”

Koeppen brings a serious approach to the game of hockey, whether it is in the film room or in pre-game warm-ups.

“I take pre-game very seriously,” he said. “You play how you practice and it is very important to me to be prepared to the fullest each and every night.”

Count current Chicago Blackhawks goalie, Corey Crawford, as one player that Koeppen models his game after.

“He is just so fundamentally sound,” Koeppen said. “He is always in the right position, always making the difficult saves look easy because of his preparations before the game.”

While balancing a heavy academic workload, Koeppen must deal with practice on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with games being played on Fridays and Saturdays at S&T Bank Arena.

This year’s IUP hockey team, play- ing in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, is looking for players to step up and be leaders, as they have lost an important handful of players to graduation.

“We want to go to Nationals this year,” Koeppen said. “That is our season goal. We just want to compete with all the teams we play.”

As for personal goals, Dante kept it very simple.

“I want to leave everything out on the ice, night after night,” he said. “I don’t want to look back after the game and have regrets or wish I could have done more to help the team win.”

Koeppen will be pulling double- duty off of the ice this year as well. He will serve as the vice president of the Sport Administration Club at IUP.

“I was the treasurer last year, so, this year, I am looking forward to the challenge of the VP position,” he said.

Dante’s plans include one day work in the Parks & Recreation Department. He recently completed an internship at Arlington Heights Park District over the summer.

If that doesn’t work out, he said he wants to do something with exercising. He listed opening a gym as one of the possibilities.

For now though, Dante continues to focus on being the best he possibly can, both on and off of the ice.

 
CHECKERS SIGN GOALIE ROB MADORE
7/17/12 - The Checkers made a move to solidify their goaltending on Tuesday, signing 24-year-old Rob Madore to a two-way AHL contract.

At the time of his signing, Madore, an undrafted four-year starter at the University of Vermont who finished his collegiate career last season, ranked as the fourth goalie on the organizational depth chart, making him a potential backup to fellow Hockey East alumnus John Muse with the Checkers. That could change if the team or its parent club, the Carolina Hurricanes, chooses to bring in another player, as Madore enters next season without experience at the AHL level.

The 5-foot-10, 179-pound Madore did make his professional debut in the ECHL at the end of last season, playing 12 regular-season games with the Chicago Express and five more in the postseason with the South Carolina Stingrays. The Pittsburgh native was a combined 10-6-1 in those contests with a 2.53 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and one shutout.  

The highlight of Madore’s brief pro career to this date may have been his first two playoff games, which he won in the fourth and second overtime, respectively. He made 54 saves in his South Carolina debut, a 4-3 win over Gwinnett in the first round, before stopping 39 shots in a rematch two days later.

While with Vermont, Madore posted a record of 41-64-20 with a 2.91 goals-against average, .902 save percentage and five shutouts. He was named Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week on six separate occasions, including three times during his freshman season in 2008-09. He finished his collegiate career among the school’s all-time leaders in several statistical categories, trailing only NHL All-Star Tim Thomas with 3,352 saves.

Madore played two seasons of junior hockey with the Chicago Steel of the USHL, where he was teammates with Checkers center Sean Dolan in 2006-07.
Marino Ramirez, a Good As Gould Goalie, made the Squirt 2003. We are very proud of him. Marino was at two Good As Gould Goalie School's this summer and won the hardest worker award.
 
Nick Greco, a Good As Gould Goalie, made the Bantam Minor 2000 AAA at Team IL. As his Goalie Coach, we are very proud of him. Nick will be at the Goalie School Camp #4 July29th to Aug 2 2013 at Center Ice.
 
Drew Palena made, the 2003 AAA Florida Alliance Team which will represent the state of Florida in out a state tournament, is a Gould Goalie School Goalie from the Jason Ritchie Camp. We are very proud of Drew. Drew will be in camp 2 at the Gould Goalie School July 15th-19th at Addison Ice Rink.
 
Nicky Abraham, a Good As Gould Goalie at our Goalie School, made the Fury AAA Pee-wee major's. We are Very proud of him!
 
Admirals youth Goalie Matt O'Donnell who played for the Admirals Youth Squirt Elite in Glen Ellyn IL. , made the CYA AAA 02'. As his Goalie Coach, we are very Proud of him.
MADORE EAGER TO IMPRESS
In this topsy-turvy season – the first half of which was characterized by the NHL’s lockout and the second by a never-ending glut of injuries across the organization – roles can and have changed in an instant.

That’s been most true of goaltending, with Rob Madore the latest player to jump headfirst into an unexpected opportunity.

After backing up each of his first seven AHL games with no guaranteed playing time in sight, the 24-year-old rookie who spent most of this season in the ECHL is now the Checkers’ No. 1 option. He’ll play his third consecutive game tonight, with Cam Ward, Dan Ellis, Justin Peters and John Muse all on Carolina’s roster for the time being.

With Muse the latest to depart on Monday, Madore has gone from safety net to taking sole possession of the net in short order. Though his energy and practices and happy-go-lucky demeanor off the ice may have suggested he was just happy to be there, make no mistake – it’s a chance he’d been waiting for.

“Every goalie will tell you that they want to be that go-to guy, and I’m no different,” said the University of Vermont product who signed an AHL deal with Charlotte this past offseason. “I like to think that if you work hard in practice and prepare for every game, you’ll be ready to go in and you won’t have to make that adjustment.”

In what small sample size he has at this level, that’s been the case so far. After unexpectedly making his AHL debut in relief of Muse in Houston last Thursday, he stopped all 16 shots he faced. In his first start against the league-leading Texas Stars two days later, he earned a 4-2 victory by making 43 saves – the most by a Checkers goaltender since October of 2011.

It was a tough assignment for one’s first career start, but one coach Jeff Daniels felt comfortable with.

“He works so hard in practice and he wanted an opportunity to get in the net, and we just felt like he deserved a chance to get in our lineup and show what he could do,” said Daniels. “He did a really good job of holding on to the puck to slow things down when we were under pressure. He definitely gave us a chance to stay in the game.”

As impressive as that debut was, it wasn’t a stellar save that had teammates talking over the next few days. Aside from the speed in which he moves in his net, one particular play in which he sprawled to make a save and then chased a Texas puck carrier behind his net, leaving the goal open, may best describe his energetic presence.

“I’m a little enthusiastic,” he said, not afraid in the slightest to make light of his unorthodox play. “To be completely honest, I’m not really sure what I was thinking. Maybe I was just trying to test our defensive coverage out, because that’s something we’ve been working on.”

Humorous moments aside, teammates already knew that Madore takes his job, whatever that may be at any given time, quite seriously.

“I’m just trying to play the role I’m given each night,” he said. “On the bench, maybe you can provide that energy or give advice based on something you might have seen.”

There’s also his attitude in practice and in pre-game warm-ups, which he seemingly treats like Game Sevens.

“I’m a pretty competitive guy,” he said. “If you ask most of the other guys, they probably get a little annoyed with me because I don’t like to get scored on.”

While Madore is still the starter by default, the Checkers at least have one other goaltender on their roster after Mike Murphy, the team’s former goalie who had just resumed practicing with the team after five months away from pro hockey, signed a professional tryout contract on Tuesday. However, that move was believed to be made due to circumstance – a necessary step to finding an emergency backup – than anything related to the veteran’s ability to play on a regular basis.

That said, the net is Madore’s for the time being, at least until injuries begin to clear up in Carolina. After that it’s anyone’s guess, though strong performances in the meantime, including Tuesday’s start against Norfolk, could at least earn him more of a timeshare with Muse than he had seen previously.

“He’s our option, and he showed the other night what he’s capable of doing,” said Daniels.
 
Jason Ritchie is a hit last week at the Winchendon School with the Boston Bruins Alumni !

Winchendon - Almost immediately after former Winchendon School goalie and graduate Jason Ritchie (class of 2005) lost his life in a tragic accident four years later, his parents knew they had to do "something" to honor his memory and leave a mark on the campus. "It was really his mom (Donna)'s idea", recalled Jason's father, Bob. "She felt right away that we needed to do something, and the mission idea came, literally, within hours of his passing. This was her dream".

And so was launched the Jason Ritchie Hockey Foundation. "For Jason, hockey was probably the hook that kept him in school in the first place, so it just made sense to do this", Bob Ritchie remarked before last Saturday's benefit which featured the Boston Bruins Alumni facing off against the Ritchie Foundation All Stars, the culmination of a day-long series of hockey clinics and events on the Ash Street campus.

During an exclusive interview with the Courier conducted in the ice rink named in Jason's memory and dedicated two years ago this month, Bob Ritchie reflected on his son, and the Foundation, which has awarded thousands of dollars in scholarship money. Some $30,000 was raised on Saturday through donations and ticket sales. "Our goal is to provide mentoring and resources for kids who share Jason's drive and dedication", his father noted. "Jason always wanted to be a goalie. He had that great drive, that determination and dedication to play that position, and we started early because this is what he wanted to do. From the time he was very young, some of my best memories are the time we'd spend driving to and from rinks. You know, hockey practice is always early in the morning, ice time isn't easy to get, and so we'd get up at 4 or 5:00 and hit the road. I remember once asking him what he was thinking or feeling on a breakaway, when he was the only thing between the other team and a goal, and he said, 'I can feel the ice'. Conversations like those - they were really great family times. Those were the best times - the times in between the games and the practices", Ritchie reminisced. "Jason loved the Winchendon School. He loved everything about it. This was the perfect place for him, and we're forever grateful to the school for what everyone here did for him. That's why we chose the Winchendon School as the home for the Foundation.", Ritchie said.

The Ritchies have moved several times because of Bob's work ( president and CEO of American Integrity Insurance Company in Tampa, FL) and while Jason attended the Winchendon School, he lived with former school Vice-President Jack Blair and his wife, Pam, (recently promoted to Assistant Head for Teaching Excellence at the school), whose home has served as a home-away-from-home for numerous Winchendon School students through the years. "We raised boys of our own", noted Jack Blair, who currently sits on the Board of the Ritchie Foundation "and Jason was a pleasure to have live with us. He was one of those kids who had a bounce to his step. He was just a happy-go-lucky kid all the time", Blair said.

When they began the Foundation in 2009, "it wasn't easy. There was a mix of pain and pleasure and while there's more pleasure now in being able to help deserving students, that wasn't the case back then. I hadn't crossed that threshold yet. Donna made a big difference for me. We stayed the course largely because of her", said Bob Ritchie.

On the Foundation's website, there is an observation, "the best way to gain the life skills necessary to succeed is to embrace hockey and all of it's teachings on and off the ice. We honor Jason by helping those in need and giving forward". "That really does sum it up", said Bob Ritchie, while adding, "our focus is on hockey. But we believe it's important for kids to find the activity that stirs their passion, whether it's hockey or theatre or music or baseball. We want to help create success stories", he said.

 
2013 Goalie Schools - Makes great Christmas Gifts!

Camp 1 - Ellenton Ice@Sports Complex-Ellenton FL. A Portion of the proceeds will go to the Jason Ritchie Foundation June 17th to June 21 11:00am to 3:45pm Cost $390.00 Fundamentals Mite, Squirt, PeeWee

Camp 2 - Addison Ice Rink-July 15th to 19th10:30am to 3:00pm Fundamentals-Mite, Squirt, PeeWee Cost $400.00

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Goaltender brings a bit of Chicago to IUP hockey

By Josh Carney/Senior Staff Writer
J.T.Carney@iup.edu
Published: Monday, August 27, 2012

 

Looking to secure the starting goaltending job for IUP’s club hockey team, Dante Koeppen, 20, balances a very busy schedule between school and athletics.

Koeppen, a junior sport administration major and a native of Chicago, Ill., makes the trek every year to IUP, pre- paring for another promising school year and season.

“I was originally set to go to Robert Morris University,” Koeppen said. “It wasn’t until [former RMU & IUP Hockey coach] Sean Maloney left Robert Morris and convinced me to come to IUP with him.”

Maloney served as a goaltending coach while at IUP.

Having been around the game of hockey since he was just over 6-months old, it was an easy choice to play club hockey at the college level for Dante.

“My mom would take me to the rink to watch my cousins play, so I was just always around the game,” he said.

Koeppen has been a goalie since he was able to play ice hockey at the age of 5.

“I just went up to my coach one day and asked if I could be a goalie,” he said. “After that, I loved it.”

Koeppen brings a serious approach to the game of hockey, whether it is in the film room or in pre-game warm-ups.

“I take pre-game very seriously,” he said. “You play how you practice and it is very important to me to be prepared to the fullest each and every night.”

Count current Chicago Blackhawks goalie, Corey Crawford, as one player that Koeppen models his game after.

“He is just so fundamentally sound,” Koeppen said. “He is always in the right position, always making the difficult saves look easy because of his preparations before the game.”

While balancing a heavy academic workload, Koeppen must deal with practice on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with games being played on Fridays and Saturdays at S&T Bank Arena.

This year’s IUP hockey team, play- ing in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, is looking for players to step up and be leaders, as they have lost an important handful of players to graduation.

“We want to go to Nationals this year,” Koeppen said. “That is our season goal. We just want to compete with all the teams we play.”

As for personal goals, Dante kept it very simple.

“I want to leave everything out on the ice, night after night,” he said. “I don’t want to look back after the game and have regrets or wish I could have done more to help the team win.”

Koeppen will be pulling double- duty off of the ice this year as well. He will serve as the vice president of the Sport Administration Club at IUP.

“I was the treasurer last year, so, this year, I am looking forward to the challenge of the VP position,” he said.

Dante’s plans include one day work in the Parks & Recreation Department. He recently completed an internship at Arlington Heights Park District over the summer.

If that doesn’t work out, he said he wants to do something with exercising. He listed opening a gym as one of the possibilities.

For now though, Dante continues to focus on being the best he possibly can, both on and off of the ice.

 
CHECKERS SIGN GOALIE ROB MADORE
7/17/12 - The Checkers made a move to solidify their goaltending on Tuesday, signing 24-year-old Rob Madore to a two-way AHL contract.

At the time of his signing, Madore, an undrafted four-year starter at the University of Vermont who finished his collegiate career last season, ranked as the fourth goalie on the organizational depth chart, making him a potential backup to fellow Hockey East alumnus John Muse with the Checkers. That could change if the team or its parent club, the Carolina Hurricanes, chooses to bring in another player, as Madore enters next season without experience at the AHL level.

The 5-foot-10, 179-pound Madore did make his professional debut in the ECHL at the end of last season, playing 12 regular-season games with the Chicago Express and five more in the postseason with the South Carolina Stingrays. The Pittsburgh native was a combined 10-6-1 in those contests with a 2.53 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and one shutout.  

The highlight of Madore’s brief pro career to this date may have been his first two playoff games, which he won in the fourth and second overtime, respectively. He made 54 saves in his South Carolina debut, a 4-3 win over Gwinnett in the first round, before stopping 39 shots in a rematch two days later.

While with Vermont, Madore posted a record of 41-64-20 with a 2.91 goals-against average, .902 save percentage and five shutouts. He was named Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week on six separate occasions, including three times during his freshman season in 2008-09. He finished his collegiate career among the school’s all-time leaders in several statistical categories, trailing only NHL All-Star Tim Thomas with 3,352 saves.

Madore played two seasons of junior hockey with the Chicago Steel of the USHL, where he was teammates with Checkers center Sean Dolan in 2006-07.