Martha’s Vineyard hockey players learn from best as Eagles visit

Boston College associate head coach Mike Cavanaugh leads a skating drill during Tuesday's session. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The Eagles have landed again at the Martha’s Vineyard Arena.

Martha’s Vineyard Youth Hockey squirts coach Peter Gillis invited Boston College associate head coach Mike Cavanaugh for a return visit to the Island to teach a hockey clinic for Vineyard Mites, Squirts, Peewees, and Bantams. The Eagles are the current NCAA Division 1 men’s hockey champions. The four-day clinic got started on Monday and wraps up tonight. Proceeds from the event will benefit MVYH.

Coach Cavanaugh first taught a clinic at the Arena on December 8, 2010.

Mr. Cavanaugh has been coaching at B.C. since 1993. A graduate of Bowdoin College, Mike was captain of both the football and hockey teams. He played professionally in Europe before coaching at Bowling Green, Dartmouth, and B.C.

Coach Cavanaugh is joined by B.C. senior captain to be Pat Mullane; Bobby Allen, currently an assistant coach at Hingham High School, who played on the 2001 Eagles national championship squad and skated in the National Hockey League for the Bruins and Oilers; Aleca Hughes, who captained the Yale women’s team last season and became the fourth Ivy League student-athlete to win the Hockey Humanitarian award; and Brian Dumoulin, a defenseman, recently acquired by the Pittsburgh Penguins, who spent three years with the Eagles and played on the 2009-10 national championship team. Dumoulin scored 11 goals and totaled 83 points in 123 career games with B.C. He was named the Hockey East’s best defensive defenseman, made the All-Hockey East first team, and played for the United States at the 2011 World Junior Championships.

The stellar line-up of instructors took to the ice on Monday in three sessions. Coach Cavanaugh said in an interview with the Times that the approach with each age group differed according to skill sets.

“With younger players, we want to focus on skating and balance,” he said, “then as we progress and see what kind of skills they have, move more into stick work.”

“With older kids, it’s a little bit more of a team concept, two on ones, three on two’s. We finish each session, even with the little kids, with some kind of small game.”

Each day of the clinic, the instructors work on new skills. Monday, the emphasis was on forward skating, proper stride, and stickhandling. Tuesday, the players worked on backward skating and passing. Wednesday’s sessions covered shooting, and tonight, the coaches will try to bring everything together.

In one drill on Tuesday afternoon, addressing skating, agility, and balance, Coach Cavanaugh, Aleca Hughes and Pat Mullane tossed gloves as the young skaters sprinted back and forth.

“That was just a fun drill,” coach Cavanaugh said. “I think it’s important that the kids always have fun, that if they leave the rink saying ‘that was a lot of fun, I enjoyed it,’ that’s going to bring them back the next day.”

Following Tuesday’s Mite session, several children flocked to Brian Dumoulin for autographs and photos.

“It’s fun, I remember when I was this young, I looked up to all of the people who taught me,” he said. “It’s fun to be here for my first time on the Island and there’s nothing better than helping out kids on the Island.”