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Balance, Player Development Keeps Vermont Stars Soaring

By Tom Robinson - Special to USAHockey.com, 03/03/15, 4:00PM MST

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Quality games, numerous practices draw girls from throughout Vermont

When the Vermont Stars head into competition, they do so against opponents at the Tier-I, Tier-II and tournament levels.

Before the puck drops, however, the Stars have a system that they believe maximizes player development while keeping the schedules manageable for the 14U and 12U girls and their families.

“Generally, we travel only every other weekend for games,” said Emily Cabral, a former Cornell University player who is co-coach of the 14U team. “Otherwise, the other weekends are practice weekends.

“We’re trying to hit more practices over the games. The games will be a jamboree somewhere or a tournament somewhere.”

That format allows the Stars to pack games into their road trips while using their two practices per week for learning the game in the team’s home base of Stowe, Vermont.

The Stars draw players from around the state who want to play at a high level. They have the full-season 14U and 12U teams for the winter schedule and even more girls who participate in a shorter spring schedule.

“Putting together a Tier I girls’ team is difficult,” Cabral said. “We try to play the best competition we can, so we tend to lose more. But they’re developing and learning with the processes that we do, and that, to me, is a better measuring stick.”

Cabral said those who commit to the Stars have to understand the schedule is not built to produce an impressive record.

“It’s kind of tough because of who we play,” Cabral said.

Cabral and skating coach Becky Salyards, who played collegiately at the University of Minnesota Duluth, are among the multiple coaches in the program who have been heavily involved with USA Hockey. Cabral took part in the USA Hockey Select 14-15 National Development Camp in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and earned her Level 3 coaching certification. Salyards is Vermont’s American Development Model USA Hockey liaison.

The Stars’ reputation is such that they draw a large group of players from around Vermont — and occasionally across one of its borders — for their shorter spring schedule.

The spring program, which is how the Stars originated, is about to start its 12th season. It routinely draws more than 100 players, allowing the Stars to put together 8U, 10U, 12U, 14U and 19U teams that each usually play three tournaments in the United States and Canada. Players have to try out for the tournament teams, while some spring players join the Stars just for extra practice.

“They’re all coming just because they want extra practices and skill development,” Cabral said. “We also offer, in the spring, some off-ice training.

“It’s an interesting spread in the spring. They have different options. They can do practices only. They can do practices and tournaments. Or they can do tournaments only.”

Extending the season allows local women’s college players to assist an already large coaching staff. It also allows for girls’ players that participate on other teams, including youngsters still playing on co-ed teams and older girls playing at prep schools and high schools, to get additional high-level training.

The players who emerge from the younger Stars teams often feed the roster of Rice Prep, a South Burlington school that combines a high-level prep school schedule with a Tier I 19U schedule. More than 60 players have passed through the Stars program on their way to NCAA women’s hockey teams.

Whether the players fill one of the Stars’ team rosters in the winter or take their skills back home after a boost in the spring, they know that the time in Stowe will be spent being exposed to ways to improve their game.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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