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Connecticut Wolfpack Aim to Build Strong, Balanced Program

By Mike Madera - Special to USAHockey.com, 03/16/15, 9:15PM MDT

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The Wolfpack Finished Second in the New England Tier I 14U Youth Tournament

The Connecticut Wolfpack Tier I 14U youth team fell just short of a district title, falling 4-1 to the Mid Fairfield Junior Rangers in the championship game at the New England District Hockey tournament in Wallingford, Conn.

Wolfpack coach Peter Alden remained proud of the effort put forth by his team, not just this weekend but over the years.

There are many reasons why the Wolfpack has been successful, Alden said.

“It is the developmental path they are given, the exposure they get and the location we are in,” he said. “We challenge the kids to meet standards we expect and standards of where they want to go. Connecticut is in a three-hour radius of over 50 schools. There is Division I, Division II, the ECAC and others as well.”

With that amount of exposure, the Wolfpack draw from many places.

“We get kids from all over the state, all over the country, like Philadelphia and St. Louis, and internationally, Sweden and Japan,” Alden said. “I think it is about we stress strong academics and the kids get good exposure. The kids have to buy in to the commitment and the philosophy we expect, and also the direction they want to go.”

The Wolfpack made a strong run in the district title in Wallingford but fell just short. Alden’s team has plenty of talent, with defensemen Christian Abrams and Michael Kennedy, forward Jake Veilleux and goalie Steven Turner leading the way.

Abrams moved to Connecticut from Dallas, attends Cheshire Academy and is a bruising defenseman who Alden says “has the potential to play at the next level.”

Alden calls Kennedy a “very dynamic offensive defenseman” and Veilleux a “powerful” forward.

Competitive Lineup Across the Board

The Vermont Glades and Wonderland Wizards of Bridgeport, Conn., also had good showings in Wallingford.

The meeting between those two teams was tight, with both teams scoring late in the periods. The Wizards took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Kyle Mazza off an assist from Brendan MacDonald with 1 minute, 50 seconds left in the first period. However, Vermont answered with three straight goals.

Zach Prive was at the center of the scoring as he evened the game off an assist from Jack Locker with 3:03 left in the second period. Prive then assisted on Locker’s empty-netter for a 3-1 lead with 53 seconds remaining, after teammate Henry Hodde had given the Glades a 2-1 advantage with 5:25 to go.

Wonderland’s Peter Rutger Gaillard set up Raif Harris with 42 seconds to go in the game to get the Wizards within a goal, but time ran out on the comeback.

Grooming For the Future

Ryan Hardy, the assistant director for player personnel for the U.S. National Team Development Program, was in attendance for the New England District 14U tournament.

Hardy was looking for elite 14- and 15-year-old talent to try out for the NTDP’s U17 and U18s squads that live and train in Ann Arbor, Mich., for two years. The NTDP teams play a schedule against United States Hockey League junior opponents and college opponents while also representing the U.S. in international tournaments.

“Connecticut is underrated,” Hardy said. “It is a hockey hotbed. There are a lot of good players. There are guys in our program from Connecticut. Mid Fairfield has a lot of history. They have done a good job, as have the Wolfpack.”

Hardy, who is from Branford, Conn., has seen his job become increasingly harder over the years. The reason, he says, are the choices available for today’s youth.

“There are too many options for kids to play,” Hardy said. “It gets watered down at times. There are Connecticut kids which excel, but there is also a big discrepancy. There are certainly high-end players.

“I have been tracking this level the last 10 months. You see a player in a tournament who is certainly elite and a handful or more guys that have the potential.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.


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