Boston College associate head coach Mike Cavanaugh and assistant coach Greg Brown conducted a series of youth hockey clinics at the Martha’s Vineyard Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 8.
Vineyard youth hockey mites, squirts, peewees, bantams, and junior high team players were all given a unique opportunity to hone their skating, passing, and in-game skills thanks to the efforts of Martha’s Vineyard Youth Hockey fundraising co-ordinator Howie Sashin and Travel Mites assistant coach Pete Gillis, who worked for over two months to bring Mr. Cavanaugh and Mr. Brown to the Island.
The defending national champion Eagles are on their holiday break, which allowed for the coaches to make the trip.
Mr. Cavanaugh is a graduate of Bowdoin College, where he captained the hockey and football teams. He played professional hockey in Europe before coaching at Bowling Green, Dartmouth, and Boston College. He has been on the BC staff for 16 years, the past seven as associate head coach to head coach Jerry York.
Coach Cavanaugh is in charge of BC’s recruiting and works closely with the power play and shorthanded units (special teams).
The Eagles have won three national titles and have sent 20 players to the National Hockey League during his tenure.
Mr. Brown is a former BC player, two-time Hobey Baker Award finalist, and one of only two players to be named twice as the Hockey East Player of the Year. He represented the USA at the Olympic Winter Games in Calgary and Albertville before playing professionally with Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Winnipeg in the NHL and for eight seasons in Europe.
Coach Brown is in his sixth season at BC and works extensively with the team’s defense and special teams.
For their work with the young Vineyarders, the coaches tried to impart their wealth of knowledge into a streamlined approach that necessarily stressed the fundamentals.
The clinics were broken up into three 50 min. sessions. The squirts and peewees were first on the ice, followed by the mites, and finally by the Vineyard bantams and junior high players.
The coaches emphasized different skills specific to the age group on the ice. Most of the drills for the young mites focused on skating, whereas older players received instruction on skating, passing, and four-on-four in-game situations.
In the evening session, the players were introduced to many of the same drills used at BC. First, Coach Brown demonstrated proper skating technique, from using the correct stride while maintaining optimum balance and weight distribution, to executing sharp turns on the inside and outside edges.
Next, the players broke into groups and executed a series of different passing drills, starting with lead passes and cross-ice feeds, and ending with 2-on-1 and 3-on-2 breaks.
In the final ten minutes, the players showcased what they had worked on, through in-game simulations. The Eagle coaches stressed repeatedly that as a player advances through each level of hockey, the execution of the fundamentals should be performed just as precisely, but with greater speed and power.
The coaches also stressed the importance of having fun at any level of play.
“We tried to emphasize with each group that having fun is really important, it’s a cliche that everyone talks about, but it works well at our level.” Coach Cavanaugh said. “If the kids are having fun and they work hard and they’re competitive…we feel that that’s been integral in our success at BC and we’re trying to bring it down to a lower level,” he said.