Experience

CMA Hockey's tradition of excellence

Kevin Patrick
 

History of player development

 

August 5, 2021

Editor’s Note: Kevin Patrick is the U18/Prep Hockey coach and Boys Hockey Program Manager. He has been a member of the coaching staffs at the University of  Vermont, Union College, Bowling Green State University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While at Wisconsin, he coached Hobey Baker Award winner Blake Geoffrion '06.

Culver Military Academy Hockey has a strong history of player development. Over 200 players have gone on to play NCAA hockey and 27 players have been selected in the NHL Entry Draft. CMA Hockey has produced a Stanley Cup Champion and a Calder Memorial Trophy recipient. It has also helped develop a Hobey Baker Award winner and multiple Olympians. Many of these players have served as a captain or alternate captain for their college or pro team, a testament to the development of leadership skills in Culver’s leadership program.

The CMA Hockey program was led by Al Clark for 40 years and today continues to embody the Culver Athletics Mission of developing athletes of passion, integrity and character who are taught to win with humility and lose with dignity. In 2021-2022, close to 90 boys will represent CMA across four hockey teams. Culver will have two National teams (Prep/u18 and u16) that will compete under the USA Hockey umbrella, one hybrid team (Varsity A) and one State team (Varsity B). Varsity A is considered a hybrid team because they compete under the Indiana State umbrella, but they also play a robust out of state schedule against teams throughout the Mid-west. Varsity B is a member of the Iliana League with a schedule primarily against Indiana High School teams.

In 2020-2021, during the midst of the pandemic, Culver played hockey with strong results. The Prep team made the USA Hockey National Tournament losing in the quarterfinals to the eventual national champion. The team is also one of six founding members of the Prep Hockey Conference, which begins play this fall. Varsity A won its 5th straight Indiana State Championship and Culver’s 29th overall. U16 finished as a Top 20 team nationally, narrowly missing the national tournament.

 

Varsity A has won five consecutive state championships.

 

The development model is consistent across all four of our teams and is consistent with the NCAA hockey model. In season, each team will be on the ice six days per week with an average of four practices and two games. Our teams will also have a minimum of two structured off ice workouts per week.

Culver also offers a pre-season hockey skill development and off ice training option in the month of September. This program has structured programming four days per week for student-athletes that are not participating in a fall sport. This year, between 75 and 80 cadets will participate in this program. Culver’s block schedule allows for further individual development. A free period of 85 minutes allows a student to come to Henderson Ice Arena to work on their game during the day if they are in good standing academically and in their unit. They can utilize the shooting range, the weight room, or the ice to work on their game. They can do this alone, with friends or with a coach.

Our program philosophy is to focus on the process of a daily pursuit of excellence in hockey development. Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” For example, we start every practice by working on skating with a strong focus on edge work. The pace of the game today at all levels requires this daily emphasis on skating development. We teach skill development and focus on concepts that are transferrable across teams and levels. We ask our players to try new things and not be afraid to fail because this will allow their game to grow from September through March.

The number one skill required for this type of development is to be coachable. A player must be open to feedback and correction. Fighting to do something the way they have always done it does not allow for growth and ultimately success at higher levels. We challenge our players in this area. Mason Lohrei ’19, a 2020 2nd Round NHL Draft selection and the 2021 USHL Defenseman of the year, said, “Culver is just super detail oriented. Things you'd never think of I now use every time I'm on the ice. All the things preached at Culver, there's a reason they're doing it. When you get to juniors or college, that's the way you'll have to play." Mason is headed to Ohio State this fall to play hockey.

At Culver, we use video in several ways to further development. We may videotape a specific part of practice and post it for the players to watch. Players learn in different ways, so we try to talk about a concept, view a concept and then keep working on doing the concept in practice and games. All games are videotaped so players can watch their shifts after a game. A player watching his shifts and asking questions is a way of taking ownership of his development and not just being a passenger in the process.

Our coaches may pick a few team clips from a game and show them in the locker room (all of Culver’s locker rooms have video capability) to show things the team did well and areas that still need improvement. Our teams may also pre-scout an opponent and show clips of that opponent before playing them. Finally, we utilize video clips from NHL games to further teach the game. Next to watching themselves, players prefer to watch players at the highest levels as that is where they aspire to get to.

Most importantly, CMA Hockey is not just about developing hockey players. It is about developing the whole person. It is impressed upon them that “how you do anything is how you do everything”. We encourage them to pursue excellence in hockey, in the classroom and in their unit. Their successes were on display at the Senior Awards Convocation in May. Timofey Spitserov, Prep captain, won the Myra and Russ Oliver Award for the best all-around male athlete. Dillon Elam, Varsity A, was a recipient of the Brian Barefoot Award presented to a social, entrepreneurial, or service-leadership endeavor that is creative, unique, visionary, and promises long term benefit to a disadvantaged community. Prep goaltender, Cole Evans, was the second make Regimental Commander and the recipient of the MacArthur Award presented by the General Douglas MacArthur Foundation to the outstanding first classmen of the Association of Military Colleges and Schools.

CMA hockey players will be contributing to hockey programs at Adrian College, Amherst College, Babson College, Bentley University, Chatham University, College of the Holy Cross, Colorado College, Dartmouth College, Denver University, University of New Hampshire, Ohio State University, and St. Cloud State University. 

Other recent graduates will also be taking to the ice at St. Lawrence University, Tufts University, University of Vermont, Clarkson University, Colby College, Long Island University, University of New England, St. Norbert College, and Williams College.

Current CMA Hockey players will continue to be challenged to focus on the process of daily development in their pursuit of excellence in all areas of their lives at Culver. There is no doubt they will rise to the occasion and carry on the strong legacy created by the players that have gone before them.

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