Team defense carries Predators Squirt hockey team to success
TribLIVE Sports Videos
The standard goals of most youth hockey coaches include developing players and driving home fundamentals.
Pittsburgh Predators Squirt AA coach Jeff Hale set an additional goal early in the season for his team: Win a tournament.
It wasn't long before his group of 8-, 9- and 10-year-olds hit that target, winning the Pittsburgh Preseason Challenge in late September. A new objective was needed.
“We beat a team from the Toronto area, which is always a great feat,” Hale said. “Now, we want to win our division and playoffs.”
That would make for a repeat Pittsburgh Amateur Hockey League title for these players, who won the Squirt A championship last season.
At the highest Squirt level this fall — and with just three players from last year's group moving on to the Pee Wee level — the Predators carried a 23-game league unbeaten streak into last weekend's games.
The Predators (3-0-2) skew older for a Squirt team, featuring 10 players at age 10, four at 9 and two who play up at 8.
That experience has the squad playing some of the best defense in its league, and goaltender Chace Hale had a 1.20 goals-against average along with a league-leading two shutouts through the team's first five games.
“The thing I'm most proud of is we have a good, solid, well-rounded team,” Jeff Hale said. “They recognize a lot more goes into success than scoring goals.”
Goal scoring certainly helps, though. Braedon Ford leads the balanced Predators with five goals, while Blake George, Jarren Kelly, Bray Sehnert and Evan Victor have a team-high three assists apiece.
Hale believes the squad's continued success comes from the players adopting an uncomplicated message preached by the coaches.
“We break it down into three aspects of the game we emphasize,” Hale said. “One is skills; that's what we practice each week. The second is smarts, and that's hockey knowledge. The other is heart.”
All three aspects will be called on as the schedule begins to heat up over the next month. But their fast start this fall has the Predators feeling good about the coming winter.
“It's important to get that early-season momentum,” Hale said. “But it's also important to bear in mind it's a long season.
“We try to break it up for the kids and not make every practice serious. We try to have some fun.”
Dan Stefano is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Ex-Penguins defenseman Niskanen still miffed by coaches’ firings
- Economy police release sketch of woman whose embalmed head was found in wooded area
- Pirates win bidding for Korean infielder
- Steelers’ Beachum, Williams hurting but could play vs. Bengals
- Rossi: Steelers rising fast in mediocre AFC
- Gasoline prices keep falling in Western Pa.
- WPIAL players named to Class AAA, A all-state teams
- Marcellus driller Vantage Energy to pay nearly $1M for Greene County well problems
- Penguins’ Sutter, Downie, Greiss being tested for mumps, out tonight
- Heyward, swarming defense get best of Chiefs in Steelers’ win
- North Korea experiencing severe Internet outages