Rockland Nats head coach talks team and season
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.”
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.