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Muscled-up Kevin Valenti has Northern Cyclones on a tear

01/09/2014, 6:00pm MST
By Tom Robinson - Special to USAHockey.com

Kevin Valenti did more than just spend some time in the weight room during the summer.

“A lot of guys make a commitment to the weight room, but they don’t make a real one,” said Bill Flanagan, Valenti’s coach with the Hudson, N.H.-based Northern Cyclones of the Eastern Hockey League. “He made a real one. He gained probably 15 pounds.”

Valenti emerged from the weight room as a new player. After producing just two goals and two assists in 25 games while playing the second half of last season with the Cyclones in what was then known as the Eastern Junior Hockey League, Flanagan is the runaway scoring leader in the revamped EHL.

“You could tell as soon as he walked into camp that he made that hard commitment to spend that additional time he needed to get stronger in his legs and upper body,” Flanagan said.

Valenti, a 20-year-old from Queensbury, N.Y., said he spent two hours in the weight room each day, concentrating primarily on his legs, doing squats and slides. In addition to increasing his squats by 140 pounds, he added upper-body strength while improving his bench press by 80 pounds.

Flanagan could immediately see the difference in training camp. Valenti already possessed the necessary skill set, something he thanks his coach for reminding him of when he was not producing as a junior hockey rookie.

“He has that strength and the confidence now,” Flanagan said. “He’s believing in his ability.”

Flanagan predicted that Valenti would have a much larger role with the Cyclones this time around.

“I didn’t really put a ton of confidence in myself, but coach Flanagan gave me a lot of confidence early in the season, telling me I was going to be one of the guys he was going to lean on,” Valenti said.

EHL opponents have been unable to slow down Valenti, who has 27 goals and 29 assists in 29 games. He has six-game winning goals and has produced 14 points on the power play and four while shorthanded, showing that he is a well-rounded player — a “two-way player who can score goals,” as Flanagan describes.

The Cyclones have gone 22-3 when getting points from a stronger, faster Valenti while going 0-4 when he has been shut out.

“I think I was pretty quick last year, but it was more of getting knocked off the puck,” Valenti said. “This year, I’m a lot stronger on the puck, I can drive wide on defensemen a lot easier and definitely get to the net and stay in front of the net by just being stronger and a few pounds heavier.”

Valenti has helped the Cyclones to second place in the North Division and a league high 121 total goals.

“We’ve really gelling right now,” Valenti said. “We’ve got a real good group of guys. Everyone’s real close and everyone’s starting to understand their roles.”

Valenti’s role has changed drastically in less than a year. After leading the National Sports Academy of Lake Placid, N.Y. in scoring and remaining there as a post-graduate student, he opened the 2012-13 season playing Canadian junior hockey. Things did not go well there and, although he started slowly with the Cyclones, he was happy that he worked out a move to New Hampshire.

“He’s been vital to our team,” said Flanagan, who has used Valenti to center different line combinations. “I wouldn’t say we’re blessed with many offensive juggernauts. We have to get scoring from him.

“We have a real good power play, and he’s an important guy there, too.”

Flanagan said Valenti essentially “came out of nowhere,” but scouts are beginning to see he’s legit.

Valenti has strong interest in playing at Division III Utica College in upstate New York, but the possibility of emerging from this season as a Division I prospect still exists.

“Playing Division I is every player’s dream,” he said. “I’ve gotten a few bites. I’m the prototypical late bloomer.

“They need to see a little more out of me in the second half of the season.”

The Northern Cyclones and their high-scoring offense are counting on that.

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.”

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