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Top-line chemistry is key for Omaha’s Jake Randolph

02/13/2014, 5:00am MST
By Tom Robinson - Special to USAHockey.com

Jake Randolph was part of a dream line combination in the last two years of his high school career at Minnesota powerhouse Duluth East.

In his second season with the Omaha Lancers in the United States Hockey League, Randolph has found an ideal combination again. And, he is making it pay off.

Randolph is leading the USHL in scoring and his two linemates, Tyler Vesel and Gage Hough, rank second and fourth.

“The reason they’re having so much success is they mesh together so well,” Lancers coach and general manager Brian Kaufman said.

Randolph leads the league in assists (43) and points (60) in 39 games. Vesel leads in goals (28) and plus-minus (plus-33) while ranking second in points with 56. Hough has 16 goals and 26 assists to rank fourth in points (42) and is tied for third in the league with Vesel with eight power-play goals. That combined output has helped Omaha to the league’s second-best record at 27-8-4.

“It’s just the chemistry we have,” Randolph said. “We’re all offensive players. We kind of bring different little parts to the line that help us get success.”

There are also similarities.

“They all think the game at a high level,” Kaufman said. “None of them necessarily skate very fast, but they all think the game on a different level than everyone else.”

However, all three play different games. Vesel is the goal scorer from his center position. Randolph is the playmaker on the left wing and Hough, a sturdy, 5-foot-11, 187-pound right wing, wins the battles in front of the net.

“Gage plays in front of the net and creates extra space for them,” Kaufman said.

Hough, 20, is in his third USHL season and his second with his hometown team. Randolph and Vesel, both 19-year-olds from Minnesota, are just beginning to spend a lengthy stretch in Omaha. They each committed to the University of Nebraska Omaha and, coincidentally, wound up being selected by Omaha in the USHL Draft. The potential is there for Randolph and Vesel to play together for years.

Randolph knows the value of a familiar linemate. While playing for his father, Mike Randolph, at Duluth East, Jake was linemates with Trevor Olson and Dominic Toninato as a junior and senior. They led Duluth East to the state championship game and a heartbreaking, triple-overtime loss to Eden Prairie as juniors. As seniors they made their third straight trip to the state quarterfinals when the St. Paul Pioneer Press selected Randolph as its state high school player of the year.

All three were drafted into the USHL out of Duluth East. Olson began with the Green Bay Gamblers and is still in the top-level U.S. junior league with the Sioux City Musketeers. However, the team captain and University of North Dakota recruit might be lost for the year after undergoing hip surgery. Toninato was among the USHL scoring leaders last season with the Fargo Force and is now a freshman at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Randolph is making the most of the opportunities opened up by his high school career and the longtime dedication to the sport under the guidance of his father, who has won more than 500 games and two state titles as a high school coach. In a 2012 story, Mike Randolph told the Pioneer Press that rides home from the rink talking hockey with Tyler are something that he will treasure forever.

Those talks helped Tyler arrive in Omaha with a deep understanding of the game. That understanding includes the knowledge that he must constantly work on the physical aspects of hockey to get the most out of his ability.

“I think his foot speed and overall strength have improved,” Kaufman said. “Bigger, faster, stronger is what every hockey player wants to be.

“He’s improved in terms of moving his feet. He’s still a pass-first player. There’s no question he sees the game on a different level than most people.”

That vision led to more than 100 assists at Duluth East. But Randolph said he knows he cannot spend much time thinking about his current statistics and what they mean.

“I don’t want to look too deep into the stats,” he said. “I’m always concentrating on working on my game first and my skating.

“I’m getting faster and I’m getting strong. The last two years, I’ve been winning a lot more battles down low. I think that’s the biggest thing for me.”

That has helped, along with a coach’s son’s feel for knowing how to make the most of the chance to work with skilled teammates.

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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