Offseason training paying off for defending state champion Quaker Valley
Quaker Valley's hockey team took some time this summer to remember its achievements from last year.
The Quakers received their Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League championship rings in an August ceremony at the Edgewood Club — the same place the team went after beating Bayard Rustin, 4-1, in the state championship game in March.
The gold-and-black ring commemorates the team's 21-1-1 season, as well as its Penguins Cup victory over Mars at Consol Energy Center.
“It's pretty big — it's got a lot of writing on it, and it's really nice,” senior forward Clayton Bouchard said. “That was a memorable day, for sure.”
While the Quakers spent that one day looking back at a successful season, they spent the rest of the summer getting ready for what they hope will be a good follow-up.
“Most teams, (after) they have the ring, they take a year off,” senior Ryan Dickson said. “We don't want to take a year off. We have to get better every time we're on the ice, every time we're together.”
As in past years, the players went through small group lessons with coach Kevin Quinn and took part in the Quaker Valley hockey camp in August.
But one difference came in off-ice workouts, as for the first time players worked out in large groups with Quaker Valley trainer Derek Clark.
Clark put the players through strength workouts targeting both upper- and lower-body strength as well as conditioning through running.
“We hadn't done much off-ice (training) the last few years,” coach Kevin Quinn said. “A few years we did it quite often, and I did it myself. But this particular way is beneficial because it's a different voice, and it was very successful.”
The coach said it takes just a quick look to see the strength and conditioning workouts paid off.
“Physically, you just see this year how much bigger everyone is,” he said. “We've been pretty young the past few years, even though (we were) very competitive. Size-wise, it's the first thing I noticed when we got to the first practice, (as well as) speed and the shots. We've instituted no hitting in practice simply because of the size of our team.”
Quinn said the next step for the Quakers will be to take the improved size, speed and skills and mold them together into cohesive lines, defensive pairings and power-play units.
With that in mind, the team began on-ice practices for the coming season before Labor Day. The Quakers will play in the St. Margaret's Foundation Fall Faceoff preseason tournament in early October, with the regular season slated to begin Oct. 29.
“These are really extended tryouts to see how well kids work together,” Quinn said of preseason tournaments. “We try them in different opportunities and different line combinations, different positions. But when you have something that's been working for a number of years — like Clayton and Ryan Dickson have played together since they were freshmen — that's probably not something that's going to change.”
While the Quakers did lose some key contributors from their championship season in 2011-12, Bouchard has faith in the younger players, who he said have “a bunch of skill.”
“They're going to be very important to our run, and I think they're up to it,” Bouchard said. “They're really confident about themselves, and I think they're ready for the challenges.”
Bouchard and Dickson think team chemistry will be a major strength, as well, thanks to the high level of participation in the offseason workouts — another change from previous years.
“It feels like midseason, to be honest,” Dickson said. “Our practices aren't where we want them to be for midseason, but how everybody's acting around everybody — that feels like midseason.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.