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Junior Bruins’ patience is paying off in USPHL

01/10/2014, 12:45pm MST
By Tom Robinson - Special to USAHockey.com

The Boston Junior Bruins dropped two of their first three games in this season’s move to the United States Premier Hockey League Premier Division. Even in that start, however, there were clear signs of the traits that would carry the Bruins to the top of their new league.

“We weren’t giving up many goals,” Bruins coach Peter Masters said. “We had dominated the Portland game. We just couldn’t score.

“The 1-2 start didn’t worry us.”

It shouldn’t have.

The Bruins had been together for just three practices and did not have their line combinations and power play set in the 2-0 loss to the Portland Junior Pirates, but they held a shot advantage and gave up the second goal in the final five minutes. The offense and special teams were bound to improve, and the defense and goaltending had already established themselves.

After dropping another 2-0 game — to the Jersey Hitmen with the second goal coming into an empty net in the closing seconds — Boston has made its way to the top of the USPHL Premier Division standings at 25-3-2-1. The Bruins have just one regulation loss in 30 games since the 1-2 start and have none in the last 12 games.

The offense has made its way to third-most productive in the league while the defense, led by Zach Todd and boosted by the play of standout goalie Sean Lawrence, is the best in the league.

“Our top four guys on defense will all end up being D-I guys,” Masters said.

Todd, who had played in the Bruins feeder programs before playing junior hockey in Canada, has emerged as the leader of that group. The Holden, Mass. resident, who will be 21 later this month, is fourth in scoring among league defensemen with eight goals and 14 assists in 30 games.

“His plus/minus stats are off the charts,” Masters said of Todd’s plus-43, compared to the plus-20 that is second-best on the team.

As those numbers reflect, Todd has been doing much more than producing points.

“Offensively, he’s great on the power play,” Masters said. “If there’s ever been a knock on him, it would have been his play without the puck. He’s always been great with it.

“He’s worked through that issue. Now, his play without the puck is excellent.”

Todd has joined by Connor Doherty and Kevin McKernan, two players on the Junior Bruins when they competed in the Eastern Junior Hockey League last season, and Zach Malatesta, who has moved up from the Bruins Under-16 team from a year ago.

Doherty has already played Division I hockey at UMass-Amherst and is looking to restart his college career. McKernan has committed to Quinnipiac University. Malatesta is a top young prospect after his all-star performance at USA Hockey’s Select 17 Festival.

Masters describes Doherty as an “excellent shut-down defenseman with a big shot from the point.”

McKernan provides steady play.

“He’s not spectacular at anything, but he’s good at everything,” Masters said.

Together Doherty and McKernan have contributed 17 and 15 points, while Andy Michailidis, another holdover from last season's Eastern Junior team, has 14.

Although Masters said he was confident right from the start, the team has exceeded those expectations.

“With Lawrence, who is the strongest goaltender in the league, I figured we’d be somewhere in the top four,” Masters said. “I had a good feeling we’d be competitive.”

Boston is the league’s only team to allow fewer than two goals per game and is nearly a full goal better than all but the third-place Hitmen.

Lawrence, also a Quinnipiac recruit, leads the league’s goalies statistically with wins (21), shutouts (three), goals-against average (1.83) and save percentage (.940).

A slow start is long forgotten.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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INTEGRITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN OFFICIATING

08/25/2015, 3:30pm MDT
By USA Hockey

No one has ever said that officiating, and especially officiating ice hockey, was easy. Rule knowledge, communication skills, fitness, skating and a natural presence are just some of the skills necessary to be a successful official.  Some possess more of these skills and those are the officials who advance to higher levels. But regardless of the level achieved or the skill set the official possesses, the one quality that should be equal among every official is a high level of integrity.

The national official staff members, along with our volunteer referees-in-chief and local supervisors, have heard growing concerns over a decreasing level of integrity among our youth hockey officials. It’s sometimes said that no one is holding them accountable. A portion of this perception is likely a typical “blame the officials” mentality, but some anecdotal evidence suggests there is also some merit to this concern. That’s alarming to USA Hockey, as it affects the credibility of our entire program, along with every member it represents. The blunt truth is this: even one official who isn’t on the up and up can and will damage the credibility of all officials who do take pride in the integrity of their work.

Whether we like it or not, officials are under a microscope, and by the nature of the business, are held to a very high standard. When we signed up for this officiating gig, we committed ourselves to represent the game of hockey, USA Hockey, our local group of officials and ourselves as people of integrity who accept the responsibility and guardianship of enforcing the rules in a fair and consistent manner. Most importantly, we must remember that the game is bigger than all of us and that the game itself is what we serve. Those who lose sight of that not only compromise the competitive fairness of the games, they also make life more difficult for all of the officials by damaging the credibility of the officiating community.

An example of this type of unacceptable behavior occurred last season. A Level 2 adult official tended to work his games with a chip on his shoulder. He often created confrontation with coaches, alienated his younger partners with inaccurate advice and disregarded their help in attempting to get some calls and rule applications right. Even though the help they were providing was correct, he chose to maintain his incorrect position that affected the outcome of several games. He also tended to identify certain players and single them out for various infractions and/or on-ice lectures as a means of emphasizing his authority.

Once the trends were identified, concerns were voiced by several parents and coaches to the local assigner and supervisor, who acknowledged they had never seen the official’s work, but would keep throwing him out there working the same teams and levels that had expressed concerns regarding his attitude. This included intentionally assigning him a playoff game involving the coach who was the most vocal in expressing concerns. This official was then instructed to “throw the coach out if he says anything.”

That playoff game went without a hitch – a tight 2-1 game with a couple of close off-side plays and maybe an icing or two missed. In the post-game dressing room, the official in question, in the presence of his partners and the officials scheduled to work the next game, said, “It’s always a great day when you can make one or both of the coaches mad. It’s too bad the white team coach didn’t want to play along today.” The partners sat there in silence until finally a 12-year-old Level 1 official who was working the next game said, “I don’t think that’s right. We’re not supposed to bait coaches.”

The official got dressed quickly and left the room without saying another word. Kind of ironic that it was the innocent 12-year-old that seemed to “get it” and instill a sense of accountability among those in the room. Imagine how any 12-year-old player feels on the ice when they see the official(s) displaying an attitude that is simply not to the standard the game deserves. And yes, more often than not, they can see through those who do not have the level of integrity expected.

Fortunately, these types of officials are few and far between. But they do exist and to simply stick our heads in the sand and not address the concern is irresponsible. Each of us, as officials, has an obligation to behave in a professional manner at all times and take our role seriously. We have made a commitment to approach each game with the understanding that the game is about the players and we should be invisible until the players require us to appear as a result of infractions that occur. Respect is a two-way street and simply putting on the sweater with the USA Hockey crest suggests respect is warranted, but only if supported by your actions.

USA Hockey has an obligation to create a non-threatening environment that promotes respect for officials and an opportunity for officials to improve through education and evaluation. USA Hockey does this through playing rules, points of emphasis, zero tolerance policies and comprehensive education programs for officials, coaches, parents and players.

In return, the game expects USA Hockey officiating members to bring a professional image to every contest and an attitude that creates a positive environment and makes the game better. We realize everyone makes mistakes – it’s part of the game. However, laziness or unprofessional behavior is unacceptable and being creative in rule enforcement and not holding players/coaches accountable for infractions will only make the next team of officials’ jobs much more difficult and set them up for failure.

The reality is that the game official must always hold themselves to the highest level of integrity and behavior both on and off the ice. Maybe that’s fair, or maybe not, but it is the expectation we are required to meet.

As we head into the 2015-16 season, ask yourself if you are willing to meet that expectation. If the answer is yes, welcome back and we look forward to a great season.

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