Ro­ck­land Nats head coach talks team and sea­son

Vision (Canada) - - Sports - ALEXIA MARSILLO alexia.marsillo@eap.on.ca

The Ro­ck­land Na­tio­nals Ju­nior A team are the talk of the town this sea­son, as they are back in Ro­ck­land for the first time since 1976.

Ha­ving re­cent­ly held its of­fi­cial home ope­ner on Fri­day, Sep­tem­ber 8 – the team’s first one in 41 years – the Nats are al­rea­dy loo­king strong this sea­son, neck-to-neck with the Ot­ta­wa Ju­nior Se­na­tors for first place in the di­vi­sion. Head coach and ge­ne­ral ma­na­ger Dan Sau­vé is confi­dent in the team that was put to­ge­ther this year and is ex­ci­ted for a fresh start.

“It’s a good mix of both old and new players,” said Sau­vé. “We were able to put our stamp on the team and re­cruit the guys we wan­ted. We are ve­ry, ve­ry ex­ci­ted about the team we have.” There are about seven or eight ve­te­rans still on the ros­ter from last sea­son, a couple Ame­ri­can players, as well as lo­cal players. There is al­so a ba­lance bet­ween young 16 year old players and the more sea­son 20 year olds. “I think our big­gest strength right now is our depth of­fen­si­ve­ly, we feel that we have four lines that can play eve­ry night,” said Sau­vé. “We have big de­fen­se­men that like to hit […] and our goal­ten­ding is young with a lot of ta­lent.”

Sau­vé has been coa­ching ho­ckey for about seven years, ha­ving be­gun once he stop­ped playing the sport at 21 years old. As a player, he spent time with the Ju­nior B team in Cla­rence, as well as playing Ju­nior A for Na­van, Cum­ber­land and Pem­broke, and spent a year playing se­mi-pro ho­ckey be­fore he de­ci­ded it was time to ei­ther pur­sue his stu­dies or a ca­reer. He then be­gan his ca­reer with the Ot­ta­wa Ju­nior Se­na­tors as an as­sis­tant coach. “It was a way for me to stay in touch with the game be­cause when you stop playing ho­ckey eve­ry day, you’re mis­sing the sport,” said Sau­vé. He is al­so a full-time tea­cher for the ho­ckey pro­gram at Louis-Riel Pu­blic High School in Ot­ta­wa.

“I think brin­ging all our guys to­ge­ther and get­ting them to be de­fen­si­ve­ly res­pon­sible is al­ways a chal­lenge ear­ly on in the year and it’s so­me­thing I work on a lot with new groups,” said Sau­vé. “On the back end, we need to work on our puck mo­ve­ment and work on our gap control.

The Nats watch vi­deo of them­selves twice a week with the coa­ching staff in order to iden­ti­fy their big­gest chal­lenges; a tool that Sau­vé be­lieves is most use­ful as a tea­ching me­cha­nism. Sau­vé en­cou­rages his players to play a simple game and be­lieves part of his job is to bring some of these kids back to rea­li­ty and re­mind them why they are playing this sport in the first place.

“I try to give them a wide out­look on what ho­ckey is com­pa­red to life,” said Sau­vé. “I want them to un­ders­tand the game bet­ter; I want them to get on the ice and start thin­king and reac­ting and ad­jus­ting, ins­tead of just playing and ho­ping that things go well.”

—pho­to Ice Le­vel Ro­bert Le­febvre Pho­to­gra­phy

Les Nats de Ro­ck­land Ju­nior A ont per­du leurs deux der­niers matches au cours de la fin de se­maine, le ven­dre­di 22 sep­tembre et le sa­me­di 23 sep­tembre. Les Nats ont tra­vaillé fort pour ga­gner contre les Lum­ber Kings de Pem­broke ven­dre­di soir, mais ils ont per­du 3-2. La dé­faite de sa­me­di était plus dif­fi­cile – per­dant 7-3 contre les Sé­na­teurs Ju­nior d’Ot­ta­wa. Les deux re­vers portent le re­cord des Nats à (4-3-1-1) pour la sai­son. L’équipe au­ra la chance de se rat­tra­per à do­mi­cile ce soir, le mer­cre­di 27 sep­tembre, contre les Rai­ders de Ne­pean à 19 h 30 à l’aré­na CIH.

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