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Monday, February 27, 2012

The Picture "State Regional Playoffs" & A real world break down

1.  Kent-  No surprises and really nothing of interest especially considering the piss poor move to pull Shaker out of this region.  A move which defies all Logical explanation.  A move which hastily results in killing the Cleveland areas best Public School program from making the Politically Controlled State Semi Finals.  I just don't get it.  This move, should have or could have been far better executed if, they had moved all the Public's to one district and Privates to another.  Better yet, quit pussy footing around and playing this PC bull shit structure and have real effing play offs, and Two levels.  (As I poke the state officials between the eyes, who have not one iota of hockey experience between them) HOCKEY IS NOT FOOTBALL, BASKETBALL or BASEBALL...its different. Your one size fits all structure is crap, and stands in direct contradiction to your "Competitive Balance" initiative.
Ok the rant is over, for now.   So here in Kent we see the following #2 seeded Gilmour vs #4 Walsh
Real world what we have is #6 Ranked Gilmour with 138 goals for and 76 goals against Vs. #10 Walsh with 154 goals for and 109 against.   The two schools faced each other one time this season and the score was 2 Gilmour and 1 Walsh.  I am giving the nood to Gilmour for many reasons.  Gilmour is better defensively, and equally capable offensively.  Historically Gilmour owns the series as well and will play with extreme confidence.  Keys to a Gilmour win, maintain offensive pressure and shooting alot followed by crashing the net.  Keys for a Walsh win, protect the darn house, and sacrifice the body boys.  The goal-tending is shaky here and every shot that gets threw has serious potential.  Get on the board fast, Gilmour is going be playing wide open, leaving some great passing lanes and space, exploit it and shoot.
In the other match we see University School, the #1 seed Vs #5 Hudson.  Real world we have #3 Ranked University School, with 110 Goals for and 73 against Vs #15 Hudson with 147 Goals for and 103 against.  The Tilt goes to University School.  University School will need to get on the board quickly and just not let Hudson breath in the game.  Keep the pace fast and physical.   Hudson, to win you need choke up U.S, sacrifice the body, and hit like never before.  Establish the offensive zone and crash the net.  Make them play your game.

2. Brooklyn.  The resurgent Rocky River number #4 seeded is playing the best team in state history and #1 seeded Cleveland St. Ignatius.  Real world #1 Cleveland St. Ignatius  with 226 goals for and 49 against undefeated 38-0-0 vs Rocky River #7 with 237 goals for and 86 against.  Hockey fans.  This game has potential.  Real serious, adrenaline pumping potential!  First  this game just may be the most heavily scouted Ohio High School state qualifying games in history.   Add in this game could easily be goal scorers delight.  Hey Rocky River puts up the points, they have some serious snipers.  Their keys to a monumental upset is simple.  Keep Iggy out of your defensive zone, and back check.  In the games where Rocky River has been tested by Shaker.  The back check has been none existent and no goalie is going to block every thing on his own.  The flip side is, St. Ignatius can come out and potentially mercy Rocky River.  Key to victory, attack.  its that simple, play the way you have been and stick with whats been working.  My pick 9-2 St. Ignatius.
Next we have the up-heaved #2 seeded Shaker with 118 goals for and 57 against vs St. Ed's the #3 seed, with 98 goals for and 77 against.  Real world we are looking at #4 Shaker vs #5 St. Eds  These two teams have faced each other twice since the first of the year playing to a 2-2 stand off and 3-0 Shaker victory.  No question this will be a battle.  A battle of will and determination.  St. Eds last meaningful games were the 3-0 loss to Shaker, followed by a1-0 ot shoot win over Gilmour and a 2-1 Ot loss to Lake Catholic.  Shaker beat University School twice, Walsh and lost a squeaker to St. Ignatius.   Shaker wins this bout.

3. Columbus- We find one game.  My initial pick of Olentangy liberty real world ranked 11, #2 seed was upset 2-0 in a stunning victory by #4 seed, #19 real world Olentangy Orange.  Presenting us with a game between Olentangy Orange  (161 goals for 72 against) Vs. #1 seed #12 real world Dublin Jerome ( 179 goals for, 78 goals against) .  D.J has played Orange 3 times this season and beaten them twice.  D.J needs to play their game and not look past Orange, its that simple.  Orange needs to repeat that game against Liberty to find their way to Columbus.

4. Sylvania.  One game here, and its no mystery that Toledo St. Johns and Sylvania Northview are squaring off...or is it?  So here we go, back to the soap box, right.  A St. Johns player was found to have been double dipping.  Playing for AAA and HS at the same time.  First I want to say,  State- get your heads out your collective butts.  Have you seen by chance that Ohio is the only hold out on this archaic rule.  Once again we find the State is damaging the sport, by forcing top players, top players to leave the state.  (Where would St. Francis be this year if Ben Torchia was not playing for Bell Tire...or had been allowed to play for Bell Tire and St. Francis) and we could go on, and on and on and on its a list that should piss off every state hockey fan.   Further we have to ask and look at the resultant penalty for having "cheated" all season.  NOTHING.  St. Johns has had no meaningful penalty against them, no loss in seeding, still allowed to participate in the post season play, an utter joke.  Exemplifies why  the  state really needs to get out of the way of these athletes, and or the weak stick Athletic Directors need to stand up, meet and with draw hockey from OHSAA (which does nothing for the sport anyway) and form a meaningful, purposeful organization for the betterment of the sport, for the players.
So here we have the district final we all saw coming.  Toledo St. Johns #2 seed, Vs Sylvania Northview #1 seed.  Real world we have #9 Toledo St. Johns with 101 goals for and 75 against that has gone 0-3 against Sylvania this year.  Loosing by a combined total of 6-12.   Real world Sylvania is #2 with 135 goals for and 45 against.  The match up finds Toledo loosing 2 to Sylvania, and splitting with Walsh in their last four games.  Sylvania has beaten Toledo twice, St Francis and Findlay in their last four.
Toledo needs to get back to their game.  Lets face they lack skill players.  They need to get back Hays hockey here and just choke up the neutral zone, and pack it in to the house in the d zone and let shots fly when ever and where they can.  St. Johns has two average goalies, combining for a 2.5 goal against average,  so not blocking shots is not an option, and not playing the most physical game of their lives is not an option either.  Toledo needs to make a statement early and dominate a clean physical game, punishing Sylvania at every opportunity.  Just as they did in game 1 this year vs Sylvania where it came down to the wire, in a 4-3 win for Sylvania. This will be a true test of control for the Titans as we have seen this year, once they start to hit, the late hits, the elbows and head contact go hand in hand.  Toledo wont win this game from the box.  Toledo needs to hit but to hit cleanly.
Sylvania has struggled all season, with the same issues and then some.  Starting with the head on this one we speak to indecisiveness.   Fact, teams that live by a goalie rotation, die by the rotation.  Sylvania has two goalies with great numbers, but youve got to pick one.  Case and point Miami University's recent thrashing in the NCAA tournament by Boston University, rotation was the undoing.  The HS season just not long enough to support two goalies splitting games. The Miami death is now being mimicked by both Boston College and Boston University who can not seem to settle on net-minders.    So I say even with Sylvania's state leading 1.39 goal against average they are in trouble.  Players can not settle in to a steady style of play, communication variations and so on all trouble.  Sylvania seems to be healthy defensively, as Brent Easton has returned to the line up.  Sylvania has skill up front, but its not very physical.  They will need to all be at their best to win the day.
My call on this game.  5-4 over time win for Toledo.  The heart and determination of Toledo will hand Sylvania their first outright loss of the season, to end their season.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Junior's and Try out season

Well it may seem odd to some, and old hat to others.  Tryout season has descended upon us.  That is to say for those aspiring to continue their hockey careers, and develop in the JR ranks fighting for an NCAA D1 or D3 opportunity.  There are roughly 30 days till April.  Now it goes with out saying many people are unfamiliar with the unique path hockey players follow to reach the NCAA.  Hockey is not football, baseball, basketball, swimming etc.. where those players matriculate directly from the HS ranks to the NCAA.  The average age of the incoming NCAA hockey Freshman is 20.3 years old.  There is a great site I strongly recommend to any family with an athlete aspiring to play Jr hockey.
While there are a stark few who do make the jump as 17-18 year olds who jump to the NCAA game these few are highly gifted and quite exceptional, and in no way the norm. Should you choose to pursue hockey, you will be faced with "You mean __________ is not going to school?"  "Where will he live, and will he take classes?"  "I just dont see why the colleges dont just take these boys now"  or some blending.  The reality is your son is not missing out on a thing.  He will in fact enter college more mature, professional, experienced and in a better state of over all preparedness to undertake his academic pursuits, than his peers.

In recent Ohio decades, 90's- Present we have seen 1-2 players every 6 year advance to Division 1. 
The face of NCAA D1 hockey is currently in a state of change.  The addition of Penn State and creation of the Big Ten hockey conference, has brought about the creation of the National Hockey Conference, seen Notre Dame join Hockey East and the Death of the CCHA.  We could converse for hours and days about other Big Ten schools making ready to join the NCAA D1 ranks, and what all the change may mean.  But we just do not have the time.  What Ohio high school players need to see is opportunity.  There is great opportunity in JR hockey these days, and you do not need to go to Canada to play.  The USHL, NAHL and EJHL are the top producing leagues of NCAA talent.
So what do you do?  Well with any hope you have read some of the Navigating Jr Hockey Blog.  These are professional organizations, and as such are "professional" sports.  You do not just pick one and go make the team or go running off with your buddies thinking you all will play together. Being recruited is the sure step, if you have been recruited by a team your best to go.  Entering a camp as a free agent is not an easy road.  Ohio has had one player go from Ohio High School to the USHL, Nolan Culver. The USHL is home to the top 1-5% of players in any given birth year.  The single best advice for anyone pursuing Jr hockey, is go where you will play, and follow your gut.  When looking at all the leagues, and all the try outs ask yourself and be honest are you an elite player?  Do you believe you fall into the top 1-5% of all players in your birth year?  ( USA hockey and Mid Am selects should have answered that question for you).  If not then you really should not be shooting for the USHL or BCHL.  You can shoot for any of the other leagues.  Take time before you send you application, and invest in your decision.  These teams scout players.  You need to scout them.  Visit buy some credits and watch some games.  Do you believe your a fit for their system?  Gift a credit to your coach, ask him to watch a game and tell you his impression.
Try out season in reality begins the first day you put your uniform in HS.  Ohio is full of "scouts", trust me.  Officals, friends, former players, amature scouts  to people who know a coach to your coach.  All scouts.  So think twice before going postal on that Official for making a call, or just being a poor sport, not working hard in practice, having pictures of yourself in less than flattering situations on Face book, or youtube.   Would you want you representing a professional organization? 
The formal try out season begins in April.  Kicking off on the East Coast, with the AJHL, EJHL, ESHL.  Followed by the NAHL in May and USHL in late June and July.

Whats your first move?  You were approached by a scout, maybe, maybe not.  The next step is talk with Mom and Dad.  Do they know you want to pursue this beyond high school?  How are your grades?  Test scores?  They both should be good, because if they are not you just closed doors.  Have you spoken with your coach?  It all begins with those conversations, or should.

So what are your odds of making it?  Lets look at the USHL and NAHL as examples.
USHL- 16 teams.  1 is Team USA so you dont just try out for them. So now your down to 15.
Each team has a 23 man roster.  on average they loose 9 -11 players a season.  135-165 roster positions annually.  Each team will draft 9 players or so.  These are players they have watched and or recruited.  Players they had to draft to hold their rights.  So seemingly they may have filled their roster there, but no, they have spoken with lots of players, just maybe in places where they dont need to be drafted, but will come to camp.  Try out camps typlically have goalies only sessions that lead in to the player camps.  They cut down the goalies to the best, then introduce game play.  8 to 10 teams or say 80- 100 players.  1500 players competing for those 135 spots.

The NAHL 28 teams.  Lets assume they have the same basic need of 9-11.  252-308 positions open.  camps normally hold 60 some players 1680 players competing for 252 spots.  Some are drafted, some are Tendered.  A tender is a contract that commits a players right to one team prior to the draft, and locks him in to that team. IT IS NOT A GUARANTEE to play, you still must try out, you are still subject to trades and just being released for any reason.  The Tender does mean your more like to make the team and you should feel very confident, but its not a guarantee.

Believe it or not camps do fill up.  So you need a plan.  Your coach should be able to tell you if he believes you can matriculate to JR and NCAA play.  Tryouts are not cheap.  Your talking about each being a vacation in many cases.  3 days in New England, of try outs means you get there a day before generally to get your legs.  What about Alaska?  Nevada? Minnesota? Colorado? Nebraska? California, Texas?  How far can you go?  All things to consider.

So if its your plan to try out for these teams, once your season is done, you have better get back in the weight room, back on the ice and be in your best shape.  Teams go to great lengths in testing players.  They use off ice drills, some even use the V02MAX as a testing tool.  Then they skate you.  The undrafted free agent will get some 8-12 shifts a game to showcase himself.  Many camps are two games before the first cut.  Then one game and a cut.  Then an all star game.  Following an alstar game you will be notified if you are advancing to a team selection camp, or in the case of some leagues if you made the team or not.  Yet in most cases you get an exit interview, with the staff.  This your opportunity to learn.  Really learn what they liked, but more importantly what you need to improve.
This is why I believe the Ohio HS player needs to get out and experience a camp following his JR year of HS.  The camp experience does many things.  One it will give a foundation of what to expect next year.  Two it will expose you to the men who are playing JR's now, the players they have drafted or selected for their camps, and ultimately expose you the player to them.  "Camps are just money makers for teams"  Yup to a point.  Every year there are kids who walk on teams, because no team is going to pass over a gifted player.  The goal for the HS is not really to make the team. Sure you try but conceptually that should not be the goal.  Finish HS, at your HS.  Its about learning, preparing and testing yourself.  Sure if you get a slot you have a hard decision to make, I hope you end up in that position, Im sure your coach does as well.  But its not likely.  You will be ready following your Sr year to give your best effort.

Nick Magyar Comits to Ohio State University

Congratulations to Nick Magyar of Mentor Ohio, on his NCAA division one commitment to the Ohio State University.
 Nick is slated to join the buckeye's in 2014.  Nick has had a great year of hockey playing for the Cleveland Barron's96 team.  Nick also skated with team USA at the youth Olympic games in Austria this year, and has been a regular leader and has consistently been top competitor.  It is expected that Nick will be playing in the USHL next year and may well follow in Kevin Irwin's footsteps to the NTDP in Ann Arbor, we will know in May around the USHL draft the exact story here.  NIck is also eligible for the OHL draft this year and could make a legitimate run to the NHL on that route, but the NCAA is the one I would much rather see him take.  You know especially since he would be keeping an Ohio thing.
What is the scouting world saying about Nick?
"Big and skilled center with excellent hands and playmaking ability."
"Is poised and deceptive with good playmaking abilities."
"A high caliber NHL prospect"
" Has the skill and patience to create time and space for his teammates to get open and he shows the finesse and vision to thread the needle."


Monday, February 13, 2012

Hail to the Victors- The Run for the Title

The time has come.  The Top teams are known and are making their title runs.  I will say this one last time, with the hopes it does not fall upon deaf ears.  One of two things needs to happen.  Either the state needs to fully recognize that one size does not fit all, in how they determine how many divisions and associated state titles can be associated with a sport.  In the case of Hockey there needs to be 2.  The other option is the Ohio HS teams need to with draw from the OHSAA, and just run it on their own.
That said we are here, and playing in this system.
The top two teams:
1. St. Ignatius- I say with out reservation or hesitation that this is the best ever in Ohio.  They roll over every team they face.  Sure we see some tight contests.  But those are rivalry games, they are tight in the best of years.  What matters here is the Wildcats are just winning them.  Week in and week out, this team wins.  They loose Miles McQuinn an utter point beast for the SEASON, just at the midway point, and dont skip a beat.  Fear hits with the potential loss of who I feel is the prolific scorer the state has seen in Liam Geither, and the Wildcats win.  The Wildcats are awesome.  I want to say  UNBEATABLE, as they are to this point!  What a great year. They are my pick for a state title, they are number one, they are the best team in state history. They can take it all, they should.
In being the best team ever. They are equally blessed to house four of the states best players: 1. Patric Spellacy 2. Liam Geither 3. Michael Abood 4. Miles McQuinn.  While having faced a red hot Shaker team, that was wrong moved for district play and fully expecting that to be a hell of game.  It should have been what would have been a likely state semi final game.  Again if you move a Shaker from one district to another, a district where they were only real thread as a Public school, it would only be logical to have divided up the Cleveland districts in to a Public and a Private.  What a colossal mess.

2. Sylvania Northview-  Here we have another team that is just dominate.  No where near the epic 219 goals for that Ignatius has tallied.  Yet in looking at Sylvania's 46 goals against they one of the toughest most stingy defensive teams in state history.  Fully capable of finding the net with 135 goals for, coming from Zach Felzer, Jacob Kobach, Dalton Carter and Drew Crandall.  Yet it is the defense at Northview that is most notable.  That may be in part because head Coach Mike Jones has a blue line for a heart.  Great defense starts in the net.  Gryca is likely the best goalie the state has ever produced, the tandem of Bowels and Gryca is with out question the best the state has ever seen.  So the goalies are stopping what gets threw the Defense.  Outstanding blue line play is coming from a great utility player in the JR Tyler Dewitt.  Kyler Omey, Brady Storer, Brad Wadsworth and Brint Easton are the Sr's who are the keys to Northview's defensive prowess. 

There you have it.  The two best teams in the state.  One best in state history, the other best in school history.   I want to see the Wildcat's, of Sylvania battle the Wildcats of Ignatius.  This is the game of the year.  The hottest ticket for a state final ever.   The deal is they each have to win their way to it.  Neither can take their foot off the gas. 

Hot on these teams heals we have a red hot Shaker team.  They are capable of beating Ignatius, people.  Shaker can and may upset Ignatius.  Toledo St. Johns can beat Sylvania, dont let this weekends 5-2 win fool you.  I was there.  I saw that Toledo played a wide open style to see if they could keep pace with Sylvania and failed.  Expect to St. Johns choke things up and if St. Johns manages to reach to a game with Northview look for a 2-1 final.
Dublin Jerome just offed my pick from Columbus in Olentangy Liberty.  I am sticking by Liberty to make the state semi finals, they are just playing well and learned from this weekend that they have to go hard to beat Jerome.

My prediction.  Not long winded here at all.  The Four teams that reach state semi finals
Brooklyn- St Ignatius
Kent- Gilmour
Columbus- Olentangy Liberty
Sylvania- Northview
State Final
game goes to OT tied at 2
and Ignatius wins.

Enjoy the playoffs and get to the games.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Quick thoughts on this past weekends highlights.

St. Ignatius is just flat out rolling, friends.  Impressive as all get out.  The Wildcats did find get some great news that Liam Geither's tendon is not a bad as early reports indicated.  Liam will be back scoring goals, and making plays for the Barron Cup.  The team did find a very competitive game against Shaker Heights.  St Ignatius won that bout 3-1 on a goals coming from Abood(1) and Spellacy(2).  The Wildcats are in full stride and have no stop signs in sight.

Sylvania Northview fumbled along in this last weekend nearly being laid out by both St. Johns.  The worst hockey I have seen from this team all season, a real mess.  They had better get the kinks worked and start paying attention to detail, again or its not beyond suspecison that they even make district semi's, who cares about States at that point.
  While its easy to say Northview did not play to their potential, much credit, no a ton of credit needs to be given to the Titans.  The team is just improving  and developing far more than predicted.  Their systems are advancing and they have players playing with surgical precision, that were not anticipated to be at this level this season.  I have to say considering the rivalry between Northview and St. Johns it is easy to see St. Johns being the team from Northwest Ohio.  They are just on track. 

I am still liking Olentangy Liberty down South.  Nice goal tending tandem, good production up front and nice D-Zone play all year.  My pick from the lands down under.

Well Cleveland.  I am not slighting you by any means.  I like Rocky River a heck of a lot, Walsh has earned a ton this year.  Building from year to year.  Im torn.