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Merrimack Youth Clinic Delivers Skills, Smiles

02/23/2016, 4:30pm MST
By Jayson Hron - USA Hockey

The Merrimack College women’s hockey team hosted its first-ever youth hockey clinic last week, welcoming more than 60 young skaters to Lawler Rink as part of the Hockey East Skating Strides program.

Merrimack coaches and student-athletes led the skills-focused, station-based clinic, providing attendees a fun-filled, age-appropriate training opportunity.

“The station-based format is the best way for players to get sufficient repetitions and really get a grasp of the skills we were working on,” said Brent Hill, Merrimack assistant coach. “We focused on puck-control skills, shooting, passing and also added a shot-blocking station using tennis balls. The kids really enjoyed that one, especially when Kacey Bellamy stepped in and took a few shots.”

Bellamy, a Merrimack assistant coach and a two-time U.S. Olympian, learned the benefits of station-based skill work first hand, experiencing it as part of her preparation with the U.S. Women’s National Team.

“What I’ve learned in station-based sessions has been a difference-maker in my game,” she said. “I didn’t understand it until I saw the difference, but now that I’ve seen it, I understand. It’s all about the right form and repetition. Players might not see results overnight, but it’s the week-to-week consistency of it, the accumulation of those repetitions that pay dividends in the long term.”

Hill helped lead many of those skill sessions, implementing concepts from USA Hockey’s American Development Model.

“I’m a huge supporter of the ADM,” he said. “From the time I coached youth hockey in Vermont, and through the past seven years as a college coach, I’ve always found ways to incorporate station-based training into what we do. At Merrimack, we use it every week. The core of our skill-development philosophy is putting our players in situations where they can work a lot of reps on specific skills. The best part of the ADM is seeing the results. We’ve seen vast improvement in the fundamental skills of our players.”

Hill and Merrimack Head Coach Erin Hamlen, a longtime member of the U.S. Women’s National Team, make a point of running stations like clockwork, literally, which promotes a proper work-to-rest ratio.

“By setting the clock for each station, and being specific about work time and rest time, we’ve found that it helps keep the players focused and engaged with what we’re working on,” said Hill.

Last week’s youth clinic followed a similar structure, leaving participants with a healthy dose of skill development and smiles.

“It was a huge success,” said Hamlen, who was named USA Hockey Women’s Player of the Year in 1994.

“The kids loved it, especially torpedo alley at the end of the on-ice session. They got a great on-ice experience with our players and staff, along with a ticket to our Friday night game against Vermont, and following the clinic, participants had the opportunity to get team pictures autographed by the players. It was a joy to see all the smiles on their faces.”

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