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U.S. Sled Team Advances to Final of World Sledge Hockey Challenge

12/06/2012, 10:15am MST
By Brian Smith

The U.S. National Sled Team scored a victory in the semifinals of the World Sledge Hockey Challenge to advance to what is almost sure to be a rematch of the heated United States vs. Canada rivalry. Team USA toppled Norway for the second time this tournament, with seven different players registering points and getting 40 shots on net.
 
“I was very pleased today,” said head coach Jeff Sauer. “Certainly offensively we were able to put the puck on the net. Their goaltender did an excellent job. I thought we were certainly very strong in net. His glove is very, very good and he had a great game. I was pleased with the win. Now we’re back playing for the gold medal and that’s what it’s all about.”
 
In a game that saw just two penalties, the U.S. took advantage of their youth and superior speed in a constantly flowing game. Provided the opportunity to move the puck up and down the ice, Team USA aggressively cycled the puck and creating a surplus of offensive opportunities.
 
“Five on five we can play with anybody and we can put pressure on,” said Sauer. “I was pleased with the way we rallied back [from the loss yesterday] and came hard and strong and kept the offensive pressure on.”
 
McCoy echoed his coaches sentiment, crediting an increased attention to scoring chances for his two-goal performance.
 
“We’re always taking about looking for the open guy and getting the wingers to crash the nets on the shots,” the winger said. “Anytime you have an open shot, just take that extra second to look for an opportunity and get the best shot you can.”
 
While the U.S. must wait for the outcome of the undefeated Canada versus the winless Japan, the team has begun to prepare for Saturday’s championship game expecting to see their neighbors to the north.
 
“It’s obviously going to be a tough game if it’s against Canada,” said Dan McCoy (Cheswick, Pa.), who scored two goals and was named player of the game for the U.S. “It’s always a fun game to play them. We just have to play like we did today. Play as a team, get our power play and penalty kill working well and just go out there and play as hard as we can.”
 
During their off day tomorrow, Sauer plans to focus on special team opportunities to be sure to capitalize on the greatest offensive chances his team will have, regardless of the opponent.
 
“We have had six or seven practices now that I’ve tried to work on situations on the power play where we move the puck,” the coach said. “I have yet to see that happen [this tournament]. So our practice tomorrow will be working on the power play.”

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According to NHL metrics, the average hockey shift lasts somewhere between 45 and 55 seconds. There’s inherent beauty and fluidity to line changes, as skaters come on and off the ice, looking to recharge after going full throttle for their teams.

Meanwhile, your NHL officiating peers are giving their all, too – regularly logging 4-5 miles a game. Those totals are even greater at your level, where you and your colleagues officiate multiple games a day, several times per week, on a seemingly never-ending calendar.

And, although we want to perform our best every game, everyone has both good days and bad – players and officials alike. To learn more about keeping burnout at bay, we went to the experts: longtime amateur hockey scheduler Larry Carrington and former NHL official Mark Faucette.

“There is so much more to officiating than meets the eye,” said Faucette, a 17-year NHL veteran. “It may look easy from the stands, but to maintain total control of a game along with the stress, slumps, supervisors, travel, and fitness regimen takes a very special kind of person.”

Get in shape (and stay there)
We all think we’re in “pretty good” shape, but the reality is, officials must be top athletes and in great condition – even at the youngest levels.

“Conditioning is very important—the deeper into the season, the more important it is,” Carrington said. “Burnout happens physically, mentally, and emotionally. An official who is in good condition will experience less physical burnout, and that will in turn help with the emotional and mental burnout.”

Faucette stresses following a workout routine that maxes yourself at least every other day. Neither player or official should plan to use games as a vehicle toward better physical fitness.

“Where we used to go to camp to get into shape, officials today are on summer conditioning regimens and are tested as soon as they come to camp,” he said. “Taking care of your body is a total focus for the good official.

“The players are so much stronger and faster now, so it’s imperative the officials keep the same pace.”

Find balance
No, not balance on your skates (that’s a given). Rather, make sure to keep the big picture in mind, to work a manageable schedule that includes everything that’s important to you – family, friends, and time away from the rink.

Although it makes Carrington’s job as an assignor more difficult, he said it pays off in the long run.

“I encourage officials to take at least one weekend off to get away from hockey,” he said. “I certainly don't want to lose their services for a week, but the invigoration that it usually provides makes them a much more valuable asset over the course of the season.”

That’s huge in an industry where both mental and physical fatigue are commonplace.

“Every official runs into slumps, just as players do,” Faucette said. “You spend numerous hours alone as an official, and when things are not going good, where everything is negative, it can cause you duress.

“Positive thoughts and self-evaluations speed up recovery,” he continued. “So, instead of telling yourself, ‘I wonder what bad thing will happen tonight?’ say ‘I’m ready for anything – bring it on!’”

Have fun
It’s No. 3 here, but should be No. 1 on your to-do list.

“I realize the officials are all trying hard, and mistakes are part of any sport by any participant,” said Faucette, who currently serves as supervisor of officials for USA Hockey, the NAHL director of player safety and the SPHL director of officiating. “That being said, the joy I get out of seeing a young official start out at ground level and making the big time one day is immeasurable.”

For most of you reading this, the “big time” might not be the end goal (and that’s OK). But wherever you are, there’s experience you’ve gained, as well as that to come – which both point back to why you first got involved in this great sport.

As an assignor, Carrington tries to get out of the office as much as he can and intentionally varies the schedules of his officials to help keep things fresh. He also encourages his more senior officials to lend a hand to those who aren’t as long in the tooth.

“Going to the rink and helping officials help themselves get better can be very invigorating,” he said. “Even a very good, very experienced official will often find it fun and relaxing to mentor some new official at a lower-level game where the stress levels aren’t nearly as high.”

But no matter where you officiate, Carrington emphasizes keeping one thing in mind: the love of the sport and those playing it today.

“If you’re not having fun, you shouldn’t be out there.”

Tag(s): World Sled Challenge