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Merger proves to be a success for Southern Tier Storm

01/29/2013, 2:15pm MST
By Mike Scandura

Prior to the 2010-11 season, the Chautauqua County Youth Hockey Association and the Olean Youth Hockey Association merged and created the Southern Tier Storm — all-girls hockey teams that compete in the Great Lakes Hockey League and play against organizations from across the region.
 
Southern Tier Storm coach Tom McFall was rather succinct when explaining the reason for the merger.
 
“The main reason was we were able to provide a better opportunity for girls,” McFall said of the Jamestown, N.Y. club.
 
Initially, McFall coached in the CCYHA, and over time the number of girls declined. Meanwhile in Olean, there weren’t enough girls for two teams but there were too many for one team.
 
“[Olean] coach Jim McFarlane and I had talked,” McFall said. “The previous season he had three of my girls come over to his Under-16 team. Their numbers dropped for that tournament-bound team.
 
“We finished the year pretty well. Then we decided from then on to come up with a tournament-bound team and a non-tournament-bound team.”
 
As a result, for the last two seasons the Storm has been comprised of a U-19 tournament-bound team plus a U-16 non-tournament-bound team.
 
“Our hope is to start getting younger girls involved,” McFall said. “We want to try to get 10s and 12s to keep the ball rolling so to speak.”
 
McFall and his two older brothers have been involved with travel hockey “forever.”
 
“The goal is to provide an opportunity for girls to play,” McFall said. “Currently we’re at 28 to 30 girls for the two teams. We graduated some from my U-19 team who went on to college.
 
“But there has been a drop in the number of teams in the Great Lakes League. We’re down to five teams in our U-19 division and our rec division is down a little bit, too. I can recall years ago when there were four divisions in the non-tournament-bound division. But we’re hoping to keep building. We need to start getting the younger girls, especially the U-10s to replenish and get more girls playing.”
 
One way to do that is to persuade girls and their parents to stop playing in co-ed leagues and register for an all-girls program like the Storm.
 
“One thing I’ve noticed with the younger girls since they took checking out of Peewees is some of the girls hang in longer with the boys,” McFall said. “But it seems with their ponytails sticking out they’ve become targets.”
 
During their initial season under the Southern Tier Storm banner, the organization experienced surprising success.
 
“Our first year when we joined, our U-16 tournament-bound team made states,” McFall said.
 
Later this year, McFall will hold his 21st annual hockey camp. Over the last three years he’s run mini-camp with 25 girls, the majority of whom play for the Storm.
 
“The mini-camp provides girls more ice time,” McFall said. “Personally, I’ve coached these girls for years, but I like them to have another voice, another opinion, somebody else to run them through drills.”
 
That’s why two of his coaches are experienced: Holly Tyng played at Dartmouth, where she’s currently an assistant coach, and Kristin Cirbus is a Colgate alumnus who’s currently an assistant coach at Bowdoin.
 
Not surprisingly, the Southern Tier Storm has implemented USA Hockey’s American Development Model.
 
“In practices, we do a ton of ADM-related drills with a lot of touches with the puck and a lot of small-area games,” McFall said. “I also tell girls it’s not about winning or losing. It’s about developing and if we make mistakes, how do we correct them? Let’s go out there to learn and carry on what you learn from hockey later in life. There are a lot of life lessons you can learn from hockey.

“I’m a teacher, so I look at my team as a classroom. Some of the teams we play are better than us, so I want us to out-work them.”
 
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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