SAN JOSE, Calif. — The pool play at the USA Hockey National Championships this week didn’t go exactly as the Tier II 19-and-Under Frederick Fury girls would have hoped. The Maryland-based team lost all three games and failed to make the quarterfinals.
Then again, the Fury exceeded even their greatest expectations just by making it to nationals in the first place.
The girls’ program was resurrected from the dead in 2012 after four years of dormancy, as younger girls were pulled up to compose a full squad. Not much was expected of the 19U team, but something surprising occurred: they started winning.
Lifted by the addition of a few skilled players who weren’t skating due to the team’s demise, or others who had simply transferred to other programs, the team was injected with life and began to grind out games on the road to nationals in San Jose, Calif.
“It was a Cinderella year. We went from lucky to have a team to being a formidable team in our area,” Fury coach Dave Pard said. “We were fortunate enough to qualify for nationals. In the beginning of the year, we were wondering if we would have an older team due to lack of players. We needed league permission to add younger players to the team.
“Some good players landed in our lap from other programs. We had a player that was very good that hadn’t been playing; she was able to play at the local rink. It worked out fairly nicely.”
The Fury’s run ended when they reached San Jose. The Fury lost 7-0 on Wednesday to the Big Sky Wildcats before falling 9-0 on Thursday to the East Coast Wizards and then closing out pool play with a 16-0 loss to the Washington Wild. Still, Pard believes there are positives to be enjoyed nonetheless as he prepares for Year 2 of the program.
“It’s been a really eye-opening, and we’re competing,” Pard said. “We have eight or nine girls that are more U-14 and many girls on their first year of travel hockey. But we have some older girls that have been able to provide some skill even when we’re playing some better teams.
“The young girls learn so much from the older players, and the older players take to mentoring the young ones. The team chemistry is some of the best I’ve ever seen; we’ve had a lot of teams that haven’t gotten along quite as well as these girls have.”
Being a first-year team, Pard is starting from scratch with many of the players. He’s taken a different approach to his coaching, an approach he hopes will pay off in the long run.
“My focus has been less on systems and more on skill enhancement,” Pard said. “Skating, shooting — if you invest in those things, by end of season you’re beginning to reap the benefits. We qualified pretty early for nationals and brought in a figure skating instructor that has really improved the [skating]. I’ll continue to introduce this next year. The great skaters are in a position to do a lot more things with or without the puck.”
Even though the 2013 national championships didn’t result in any hardware, Pard is confident the trip to San Jose will pay dividends in Year 2.
“We have most everybody coming back next year,” he said. “A few girls are graduating from high school and going to school locally and will play. Hopefully we’ll be that much stronger next year.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.