The girls who recently completed their time with the Buffalo Regals put a lot into the program.
They’re also getting a lot of it.
Six of the eight girls who graduated from the Regals’ 19U team this season have made commitments to continue playing hockey at the NCAA Division III level, all at State University of New York schools. Emma Ruggiero, Megan Reukauf and Maddy Kromer will all continue playing together at Buffalo State while Brie McFall heads off the Oswego State, Grace Page goes to Canton and Tatum Walber to Potsdam.
Tom Ruggiero, the association’s girls’ travel director for the past three seasons, arrived in the program with his daughter, Emma, for the 2010-11 season. The group Emma played with has been a big part of the Regals’ growth.
As a 14U team in 2012, they broke through by completing a series of dramatic wins to finish as USA Hockey Tier II national runners-up. At the time, the Buffalo association only had their 14U team and one older Tier II team. In the years since, the Regals have ascended to Tier I and, instead of seeking to fill teams on a year-to-year basis, have built teams at each age level: 19U, 16U, 14U, 12U and 10U.
“We had a good first year, and we started adding teams from there,” Tom Ruggiero said. “A lot of good things, a lot of coaches and, fortunately, we’ve had a good run building up the program.
“You never know how long it’s going to last, but it’s a good opportunity and a good situation for a lot of girls, and we’ll keep it going as long as we can.”
Ruggiero coached the 16U team to a Tier I New York state title and national quarterfinal appearance in 2014. The Regals also won the state Tier I 14U title last season.
He coached the 12U and 19U teams this season, which joined the 16U squad in giving the Regals three state runners-up on the Tier I level. Next season, he will lead the 14U team.
When the tryouts are done and the Regals set their 17-player Tier I rosters, Ruggiero has options for the remaining girls..
“Every team had to make cuts,” Ruggiero said of the Cheektowaga-based program. “The good thing with the girls’ game is that other organizations do have Tier II teams. You never know on any given year who’s going to have a given age group. The numbers aren’t always there to fill all those teams.
“At the same time, we have an idea who’s going to be stronger and can make recommendations. At the end of the day, we want the girls have a place where they want to play. Most of the coaches in the area, we have a relationship with and talk back and forth.”
In addition to the Regals’ thriving Tier I teams and their willingness to help place girls on other nearby Tier II teams, the program might revive a third offering for girls next season: a house league.
Linda Groff-Mroz, the Regals’ girls’ house director since 2009, ran a unique house league for five seasons before having a dormant season this winter. She is working now to see if there is interest in resuming the house league next season.
In this format, the house program places girls ages 7-17 together for Saturday practices and Sunday games. Each team has players spread across those ages, but line changes are carefully organized to provide two two-minute shifts per period for “A” players (high-school age), “B” players (middle-school age) and “C” players (elementary school), so that each age group competes on its own level.
“The younger ones adapt quickly, and the older ones have an opportunity to mentor the younger ones,” said Groff-Mroz, who played in the NCAA Division I Frozen Four with Niagara University in 2002 and is also a local high school ice hockey, field hockey and lacrosse coach. “The girls seem to really enjoy it.”
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Although the COVID-19 pandemic is still a reality, the USA Hockey Officiating Program is looking forward to getting everyone back on the ice in what will likely become the “new normal.”
As we get closer to minimizing the effect the virus has had on our everyday lives, the successful completion of our USA Hockey National Tournament series and the IIHF Under-18 World Championships is a promising indication that hockey is back and will be better than ever for the 2021-22 season.
As early player registrations mirror those trends from prior to the pandemic, the following is some information as to what officials should expect over the summer months and for the start of next season.
SUMMER DEVELOPMENT CAMPS AND ADVANCED SYMPOSIUM ARE BACK!
The Summer Development Camp Program is being downsized slightly as some facilities are still not available this summer, but we have latched onto the USA Hockey Player Festivals to be able to provide a quality development experience for those officials who qualify.
The Advanced Officiating Symposium is scheduled for early August in Providence, Rhode Island. USA Hockey is working closely with the host hotel to maximize participation while still adhering to state and local COVID-19 restrictions. The goal is to be able to accommodate everyone interested in attending this one-of-kind get together of top ice hockey officials in a dynamic and engaging program.
USA Hockey is in the midst of our quadrennial rule changes process, meaning there will be an updated 2021-2025 version of the Playing Rules Book prior to the start of the season.
Although the fundamental structure of the game will not change, there are several rule changes likely to be adopted that will require officials to pay attention to their rule knowledge and commit to the proper application of the rules. Officials will play a major role in USA Hockey’s efforts to improve the culture of body checking and, in return, officials will be provided more support through organizational initiatives to curb abuse of officials and unsportsmanlike behavior.
REGISTRATION JUNE 1
Officials registration for the 2021-22 season will open on June 1. However, since the updated playing rules will not be adopted until the USA Hockey Annual Congress in mid-June, hard copies of the 2021-25 Officials Playing Rules and Casebook will not be available until early August. A summary of the adopted rule changes and a PDF version of the updated rulebook should be available relatively soon after the Annual Congress. As a result, the open book exam, online module curriculum and seminar program will become available during the week of June 21.
One of the outcomes of the pandemic was it required us to take a hard look at our seminar program and make significant adjustments to best prepare our membership for success on the ice. Officials should look for the re-introduction (local restrictions permitted) of the in-person level 1 and level 2 seminars, with the level 1 format returning to an all-day seminar experience. The level 1 standardized seminar curriculum will include the online module curriculum as part of this experience in an effort to streamline their registration process. Level 2 officials will experience a half-day in-person seminar which will include an ice session.
The virtual “zoom” classroom seminar appears to be here to stay for level 3 and level 4 officials, even though some areas may choose to also provide in-person seminars for our most experienced team members. Either way, the goal is to be able to accommodate the needs of all of our officiating members with options that provide flexibility and efficiency. The online module curriculum for level 3 and level 4 officials is also being modified to streamline their registration process without compromising the educational value.
The level 2-3-4 closed book exams will also follow a modified format like last season where they will be able to complete the exam online within seven days of the seminar they attend. It is important to note these modified closed book exams will still be timed, so they must be completed in one sitting.
ADAPTING THE BEST WE CAN
The final thing to expect for the 2021-22 season? There will likely still be some restrictions and protocols that must be followed in certain local areas. The game may not look exactly like it did at the start of the 2019-20 season. Although we do not expect any full-fledged shutdowns as happened during the 2020-21 season, we will still need to be diligent and follow local guidelines in order to keep our game and its participants safe and on the ice.
USA Hockey is excited about the opportunity to get everyone who was involved prior to the pandemic safely back on the ice. There is also huge growth potential as people feel more comfortable to get back into daily life and look for new ways to engage. There is no reason why hockey cannot be that avenue where everyone is welcomed, included and encouraged in a way that a lifelong passion for the game is nurtured.
USA Hockey thanks you for your continued support and your involvement in our programs.