LANSING, Mich. -- The fact that the 2015 Toyota-USA Hockey Girls Tier II National Championships are being held in its home state of Michigan didn’t matter to the Troy Lady Sting, one of the state’s representatives at the 14U level.
“We would have gone anywhere, obviously,” Sting coach Paul Porter said. “It’s great to be here, and next year [14U nationals] are in Vermont, and we’ll be shooting for that as well.
“Any time you get an opportunity like this, it’s once in a lifetime.”
Porter added that he’s been preaching to his players that getting to the national tournament is never a given on a yearly basis.
“I played years of hockey, high levels of hockey, and never even won a state championship,” Porter said. “I played with quality players on quality teams, and we make sure we mention that to [the Sting players] and seize the moment.”
The Sting, based out of the Detroit suburbs and about 90 miles due east of Lansing, came together as a group at the end of last summer, but Porter said his squad, like most at that time, had some uncertainties.
“We knew we had a young team coming and we knew we could transition and score with anybody, even in the country, and we were monitoring that,” Porter said. “Our big thing is working from the defensive zone, taking care of that, and transitioning off that good concept and good things will happen to us. That’s what our main focus is. We want to develop from within and not necessarily go out and take players from different areas.
“We take pride in coaching them up ourselves, and I wish more programs would do that at any level.”
Getting an at-large bid to nationals after the Kensington Valley Ravens won the Tier II 14U state championship earlier this month, the Sting took their coach’s words to heart in the national opener, beating the Rocky Mountain Lady RoughRiders 6-3.
Again, defense played a major role in not only that victory, but in the wins leading up to Lansing.
“We reinforced it enough,” Porter said. “It’s one of those things where it’s hard not for these kids to keep a focus on. If they don’t, we [as coaches] keep it there. I mean, these kids are 13, 14 years old and we keep reminding them, reinforcing it.
“Unfortunately, sometimes you get girls from different systems and you have to cram a little bit, so to speak, on the learning concepts and theories on what they should have at this age. It’s only going to get more difficult as they get older and the game picks up speed. That’s the message we try to portray to them, have a sense of urgency.”
And while Porter didn’t want to single out any of his players, saying instead that “we have a lot of skill,” he did say that he knew this group was talented enough to get to Lansing once inconsistencies were worked out along the way.
“We knew if we cleaned up the inconsistencies, which really are still in question, we could make a run at this thing,” Porter said. “We just try and get the players better individually through a team concept and the rest will take care of itself. We coach for the long term.”
Once the Lansing event concludes, it’ll be time to start looking at 2015-16, and Porter doesn’t anticipate having the same team next fall.
“We have quality players from top to bottom,” Porter said. “We probably have a handful right now ready to make that step, maybe enhancing their game even further, possibly shooting into high school. We try to help start that thought process with them where they know they can maybe get an education paid for.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.