Most hockey coaches place some emphasis on staying out of the penalty box.
When the Cape Cod Whalers take two teams to the Toyota-USA Hockey Youth Tier I National Championships, it will be even more vital to avoid penalties, according to 16U head coach Jason Rathbone.
It will be one of the keys to offsetting the disadvantages inherent with being a fall team getting back together just in time for nationals in the spring.
“We don’t have the same special teams systems as teams that have the luxury of playing together,” Rathbone said.
Cape Cod, which went 2-1 and just missed advancing to the quarterfinals at last year’s 16U nationals in Buffalo because the wins were by shootout and in overtime, is back this year with some of the same players. The Whalers qualified two teams by winning the Massachusetts District titles in both 16U and 18U to make it to San Jose, California for nationals, taking place March 31-April 4.
“The majority of teams out there, if not all of them, are full-season-type teams, so they have two to three practices a week, off-ice practices as well as on-ice,” Rathbone said. “Their power plays; their special teams are excellent.
“They’ve been working on it all year. They’ve played a 60-game season together. Our boys will play a 25-30-game schedule together and then we all break up for 2 1/2 to three months to play high school.”
The system advantages opponents could possess from their extra time practicing and playing together is just one of the reasons Rathbone wants to play at full strength. He said the team is at its best 5-on-5 and rolling lines to take advantage of its depth and balance.
Prep school titles have been decided in New England and the high schools are finishing up soon. The Whalers will get back together the week before nationals to try to prepare to play as a team again.
“We have a solid three-week break where kids have to find a way to get on the ice themselves,” Rathbone said of the time since some team members finished their school seasons. “We’re not doing organized practices because of different vacations from school and some of our kids are still playing.”
The Whalers have shown in previous nationals appearances that they have enough talent in their program to compete against the full-season teams. The 18U team opened the 2012 tournament with a win over the Los Angeles Junior Kings, an eventual finalist.
The team from Scituate, Massachusetts has five players returning to 16U nationals.
Defenseman Jack Rathbone, the coach’s son who is already an early commit to Harvard University, was the only Whaler with two assists in last year’s tournament.
Forward Jay O’Brien was one of the players to share the team scoring lead with Rathbone with two points.
Defenseman Sean Keohan is also back along with Jimmy Scannell, who served as the team’s back-up goalie throughout nationals.
Jason Rathbone was an assistant coach for that team.
Tristan Amonte, Aidan McDonough and Cameron Lemanski played this winter for Thayer Academy, which won the New England Prep School Large School title.
Ian Murphy and Jason Doby have helped Boston College High become a major contender for a Massachusetts state high school title.
Cape Cod won the Mass Selects 16U Tier 1 title with a 10-0-2 league record and went 19-7-2 overall in its fall season.
O’Brien, a Providence recruit, led the way with 21 goals. Ben Thomas led with 26 assists and 40 points. Jack Rathbone led in goals (9) and points (19) by a defenseman.
Both Cape Cod teams went 5-0 during their district tournaments. The 16U team was more dominant, outscoring opponents, 35-8, while the 18U team won by a total margin of 22-9.
Ty Amonte, Casey Carreau, Robert Carmody, Kyle Peterson, Michael Royer, Michael Seoane, Colin McCabe are all members of both the 18U Whalers and the championship Thayer Academy team where they are coached during the winter by Amonte’s father, U.S. Olympian Tony Amonte.
Boston University recruit Ty Amonte and Carreau each had two points for Cape Cod in last year’s 16U national tournament.
The Whalers, coached by Andrew Orpik, finished third of 15 Mass Selects 18U Tier 1 teams with an 11-2-1 record. During league play, Jack Donato led the team in goals (13) and points (21) while Colin McCabe led in assists (12). McCabe was on the 16U team at nationals last season.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.