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Aaron Nelson following coach’s footsteps in Bismarck

12/13/2013, 4:30pm MST
By Tom Robinson - Special to USAHockey.com

Layne Sedevie can relate to the challenges faced by one of his key players in Sedevie's three seasons as Bismarck Bobcats coach and general manager.

Aaron Nelson is following a path that Sedevie knows well.

About a decade ago, Sedevie was a somewhat undersized goalie from Bismarck, playing high-level junior hockey, trying to gain the attention.

He eventually went on from the United States Hockey League to play three-plus seasons at Bemidji State University before playing in two minor professional leagues. He has since launched what is quickly becoming a successful coaching career with two consecutive North American Hockey League Central Division titles and Robertson Cup Finals appearances.

Now Nelson, a 5-foot-9, hometown goalie, is hoping to follow a similar path through the ranks of junior and college hockey. Nelson has been a big part of Sedevie’s success in Bismarck, racking up impressive numbers over all three of Sedevie’s seasons running the Bobcats. The coach is hopeful that the latest streak will help Nelson take the final step in establishing himself as a Division I prospect.

“He just needs an opportunity,” Sedevie said. “I really feel like he can be a Division I goaltender and not just a back-up. I feel like he can be an All-American goaltender.

“He’s got all the tools. I really feel like he can have a lot of success at the next level.”

Nelson understands that part of the proof comes in consistently showing he can succeed at his current level in the only Tier II junior hockey league in the United States.

A current five-game winning streak and his status as the reigning NAHL Central Division Player of Week are just the latest accomplishments for Nelson.

“As long as we have team success, guys are going to get looks,” Nelson said. “I think that’s the biggest part: Guys understanding that without team success, we’re not going to get looks that we could. I think guys are understanding that now in this recent stretch.”

The Bobcats have moved to within three points of the first-place Austin Bruins in pursuit of their fifth straight Central Division title.

Nelson — and Sedevie — have been a big part of the most recent two.

After posting a 2.40 goals-against average in 20 games as an NAHL rookie, Nelson was second in the league last year with a 1.88 GAA last season, tied for second with five shutouts and fourth with a .931 save percentage. He has also proved valuable in the postseason, going 12-4 with a 2.25 GAA over that time.

Sedevie points to the playoff performances and three years of established success when explaining why he thinks Nelson has a promising future.

Nelson is thankful for the help he has received from direct input from a head coach who understands the goalie’s job.

“He kind of just understands what shoes I’m in,” Nelson said. “We’re both small. He understands my game. That definitely helps.

“He works with me before practice and after practice.”

Sedevie also knows the mindset of a goalie.

“I think that’s something I can offer as a head coach,” he said. “I feel like you try to understand systems and everything else you’re doing as a coach, but it is the one position that I can really relate to.

“In certain situations, I feel for a goaltender it’s the mental stuff. To be able to go through situations and talk to somebody, it’s something I hope I can provide for my goaltenders.”

On the technical side of the game, Sedevie says Nelson plays his angles well, uses his quickness and has put in the work to become strong at rebound control.

“I worked on it a lot as a kid, just drills in practice,” Nelson said of his positioning. “And a lot of it is battling. I’m not going to stop shots just by being big.

“Being in position, first and foremost, is important because I’m smaller. I have to take away as much of the net as I can.”

Nelson has stopped 148 of 155 shots during his five-game winning streak, putting up a 1.38 GAA and .955 save percentage. The team has gone from losing five of six to winning seven of its last eight.

The success has Nelson thinking big. He would not only like to see the Bobcats climb to the top of the Central Division, he says the team should be aiming to secure the best record in order to host the Robertson Cup finals that also serve as the USA Hockey Tier II National Championships.

“We’re 11-0-1 at home this year so I think securing home ice for playoffs would be two thumbs up,” Nelson said. “Every point counts.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Three ways to beat burnout

11/28/2016, 9:45pm MST
By Dave Pond

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.”

Gerry Letourneau Helps All Rhode Island Kids Get a Chance to Play

12/01/2016, 9:45am MST
By Mike Scandura - Special to USAHockey.com

Founder of Rhode Island Special Hockey works to give equal opportunities

Shadow me

11/29/2016, 10:15am MST
By USA Hockey

Officials in Colorado Springs are benefitting from a shadow program

It was roughly five years ago when Tim Whitten noticed a problem in his association. Whitten, an assignor in the Southern Colorado Hockey Officials Association, observed that while new and young officials were signing up, few were returning the following season.

That’s when he berthed the idea of a shadow program.

Andy Flores, president of SCHOA, took time to tell us more about the program and how the association and its officials are reaping the benefits.

USA Hockey: How exactly did the shadow program come to be? What specific problems were you guys noticing?

Andy Flores:
It started with Tim Whitten. He found that we had a large exit rate, mostly because our newer and younger officials didn’t seem to be comfortable. We would be getting up to 10 new officials a year and we’d lose about 40 percent of them. When that happens, it puts a huge hole in your officials pool. So Tim came up with the idea to have veteran officials shadow newer officials to build their confidence on the ice.

USAH: How does the program work?

Flores:
The program is designed for the new officials, the Level 1s who are in their first year. For the first five games on the ice, they are assigned a shadow. It’s general for a game assignment, a 10U C-level game or something like that. Typically on the ice we will have one senior official, one second-year official and the new officials. The shadow is assigned and works with the new individual. After five games, the shadow identifies if the person needs a little more work or if they are strong and have gained enough knowledge to do it on their own. At that point, they don’t get assigned shadows anymore. If they need a little extra help, they are assigned a shadow as long as they need it.

USAH: Are the shadows technically working the game or are they there as a silent helper?

Flores:
The shadow’s primary job is to teach, not actually officiate. As a shadow you’re not there to influence the game. We don’t work in a capacity where we are working the game. We don’t call offsides, we don’t call icing and we don’t call penalties; it’s strictly educational purposes for the new individual. A shadow is there to give them support and confidence. A simple ‘Yes, you’re making the right call,’ or, ‘I would have maybe called offsides there,’ is what they are there for. That’s why we have shadows work at some of the lower levels of the game, because they are at a stage where coaches aren’t going to go after a ref for minor mistakes and it allows the new officials to learn in an environment where they aren’t necessarily going to get yelled at for everything.

USAH: What’s the feedback been like?

Flores:
The senior guys definitely love it. They enjoy the teaching aspect. That’s why I officiate, because I enjoy teaching the game as well as being a part of it, so for those senior guys, it’s fun to be sharing the knowledge. In Colorado Springs, our experience for our guys ranges anywhere from the NHL, USHL all the way down to the local stuff, so we have a vast array of knowledge. I think the newer officials are enjoying it, too. They keep coming back, so we must be doing something right.

USAH: Has the retention improved then?

Flores:
Absolutely. More than 60-70 percent stay on now for a second year. Plus, we’re getting anywhere from 20 to 30 new guys each year. It’s definitely had a positive impact.

USAH: So you would recommend that other officiating associations give a shadow program like this a try?

Flores:
Absolutely. You take advantage of those prime opportunities to teach at the time they’re occurring. You don’t have to holler across the ice to try and say ‘Hey, do this,’ or, ‘You can’t do that.’ You don’t want to spend time during the game and you don’t want to slow down the game. With the shadow program, you keep the game flowing while teaching. Plus, I can’t speak enough about the retention. People leave officiating because they don’t feel confident. Now we give them that confidence.

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