December 10, 2013

Juniors Journal: Islanders Showcase for USPHL on tap

By Shawn Hutcheon

Hockey scouts put in a lot of miles searching for talent. That is why they always welcome a tournament or a showcase where they can see a multitude of players under one roof.

Such an event will take place this weekend at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass. The Islanders Hockey Club will host the Islanders Showcase for the United States Premier Hockey League. All nine USPHL teams will be present and accounted for.

“There will be twelve games,” explained Islanders coach and general manager, Sean Tremblay. “It’s a good set up. All of the Premier Division teams will be on one rink. It’s a great opportunity for the scouts to see all of the league’s players in a span of three days (Friday through Sunday).”

Each year, scouts focus on Tremblay’s team and they will be watching his players closely this weekend.

The Islanders have improved throughout the season thanks to unusual coaching techniques used by Tremblay and his staff.

“We’re 8-2-1 in our last 11 games,” the coach said. “We had to go through some adversity with a ton of injuries at the start of the season. That’s not an excuse just a fact and I’m not one to bring players in just to fill in and let them go after the injured players return. We played quite a few games with just nine forwards.”

Tremblay and his staff saw that the injuries combined with a new facility to play in and many new faces also needed direction. The coaches became teachers and assigned a writing project to the players.

“We had the boys write an essay on the status of the team and themselves,” Tremblay said. “We wanted to start out with a blank canvas. We (coaching staff) assumed they knew the team culture. We learned a lot from those essays and still talk about them. We’ve become a tight-knit group.”

That new bond is necessary for all teams if they plan on moving forward and winning more than they lose. It has also changed and/or renewed attitudes.

“Every day is so much fun to come to the rink again and we spend a lot of time at the rink. There are days when the boys arrive at 9:00 am for meetings, off ice training, then practice. They may not leave until after2:30 pm.”

That many seem to be a fair amount of hockey in one day for anyone but for the Islanders, you can never get enough of being around the rink.

“The players wish they could spend more time together so we’re looking into setting up a room with a pool table and a ping pong table. Almost like a players lounge, if you will.”

There were those at the start of the season who were surprised to see the Islanders get off to a slow start (3-7-0) but with some innovative coaching and strong efforts from his players, Tremblay’s squad is playing their best hockey of the season and plan on continuing to do so in this weekend’s showcase.

Game of the Week

The United States Premier Hockey League will serve up this week’s top contest in the Islanders Hockey Club Showcase at Merrimack College. Rest assured the scouts from every college and professional team across the continent plans on attending Saturday’s tilt (3:40pm) between the South Shore Kings and the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Kings currently have four players committed to Division 1 college programs. The Flyers have five such commits.

Add in the fact that the second place Kings lead the fourth place Flyers by just five points and you can be sure this will be one of the most exciting contests of the season.    

New England Power Rankings

1) Boston Jr. Bruins(21-3-2-1) - A four game win streak ended over the weekend with a loss to the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders but Boston rebounded by shutting out that same P.A.L club on the following day. The Jr. Bruins are in first place in the United States Premier Hockey League.

2) South Shore Kings(18-8-2-1) - A sweep over the Connecticut Yankees moved the Kings into second place in the USPHL. South Shore is 5-1-0 in their last six contests.

3) New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs(19-4-1-0) - Leading the Eastern Hockey League’s North Division by one point over the Northern Cyclones, the two clubs will meet Wednesday.

4) Northern Cyclones(19-6-0-0) - Coach Bill Flanagan’s club has won four of its last five games to close the gap on the Jr. Monarchs in the EHL’s North Division. They could be in first place by the end of the weekend.

5) Islanders Hockey Club(14-10-2-0) - IHC has gone 8-2-1 in its last 11 tilts.They are in fifth place but with 12 players committed to college programs and more to come in the very near future, look for this team to continue climbing in the USPHL standings.

6) Connecticut Oilers(15-7-1-1) - By winning four of their last five games, the Oilers have opened a four point lead over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights in the EHL’s Central Division in the race for first place.

7) Boston Bandits(12-7-3-1) - Solidly entrenched in third place in the EHL’s competitive North Division, the Bandits have lost only once in their last five contests.

8) Bay State Breakers(6-13-4-3) - The seventh place club in the USPHL, Bay State hopes to improve their record at this weekend’s Islanders Showcase.

9) Valley Jr. Warriors(9-11-1-3) - Coach Andy Heinze’s club moved out of the EHL North Division basement last weekend with a road win over the Boston Jr. Rangers. They will meet again Fridayafternoon on the Warriors’ home ice.

10) Connecticut Yankees(7-16-1-0) - This weekend at the Islanders Showcase, the Yankees will hope to pick up three big victories over South Shore, IHC, and Portland.  

11) Portland Jr. Pirates(6-19-2-1) - Coming off a win over the Islanders Hockey Club, Portland will try to extend their good fortune this week against the Jersey Hitmen, Bay State, and CT Yankees.

12) Hartford Jr. Wolfpack(9-9-2-2) - The Wolfpack is showing steady improvement and have climbed out of last place in the EHL’s Central Division by being victorious in three of their last five tilts.

13) Boston Jr. Rangers(9-12-2-2) - A loss to Valley resulted in BJR sliding into last place in the EHL’s North Division. Things are not going well for the Rangers on nor off the ice.

14) Walpole Express(8-12-3-1) - After losing six consecutive contests, the Express hope to be back on track after defeating the New York Bobcats last Sunday. The Express are last place in the EHL Central Division and have a weekend series scheduled with a surging New York Apple Core club.

Twitter: @ShawnHutcheon