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Jr. Gulls making major strides with goaltending development

 

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Following in the footsteps of San Diego native and former Jr. Gulls goaltender Thatcher Demko, now in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks, the Jr. Gulls have taken their goaltending development program to a new level.

Led by the organization’s goalie coaches Reed Kinsey, Garry Burgess, Jonah Munholland and Juha Kanervisto, the Jr. Gulls are hoping to produce another Demko in the future.

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Goalie training takes place in clinics and team practices and all four coaches understand that goalies are the backbone of any team and need special attention and training. From utilizing a shooting cage and tennis ball machine to using a mentor goalie with the younger players, the Jr. Gulls have things trending in the right direction.

“Having a higher-skilled Bantam or Midget goalie demonstrate to a Mite, Squirt or Pee Wee is really effective and something other clubs can emulate,” said Burgess. “The older goalies love giving back, and the younger goalies enjoy learning a goalie-specific skill being demonstrated properly from a fellow goalie.

“Providing goalie-specific training during practices is a common youth hockey challenge, as many teams do not have a coach with goaltending experience. We have a number of head coaches at the club that bring in visiting goalie coaches for a portion of their practices. Goaltending training has definitely improved at the Jr. Gulls the over the past couple of years.”

The Jr. Gulls are also busy at work building an off-ice goalie training facility, while their dryland training involves goalie-specific drills to boot.

Kanervisto, a Finland product, is on board with seeing San Diego goalies progress and improve.

“I think we are at the beginning of this process and real improvements are going to be realized in the future,” said Kanervisto. “Goalie-specific dryland with Jonah is really showing improvements on the ice. Coaching is a shared task. I encourage lessons from different coaches. I think it is important for goalies to see slightly different styles of coaching while the coaching philosophy stays the same. We emphasize skating and edge drills as well as technical skills and accuracy around the crease that comes with good skating and edges. Puck drills are designed to be game-like scenarios with pre-save movement, actual save selection and post-save movements.

“Basically, we are trying to help goalies to be able to beat the passes on their edges and stay ahead of the game instead of chasing it around and relying on desperation.”

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Munholland said that in recent years, the club has put a great deal of emphasis and provided many opportunities for the develop of its goaltenders.

“The dedicated goalies, the ones who are brought into this system and use the training opportunities made available to them, have all increased their performance no matter what age,” Munholland said. “You can measure their performance by looking at the level of play they have gotten to. This season, there are goalies that have gone from never playing the position or playing at a lower-level B or BB team to playing at the A or AA level in very short time.

“Goalies are by far the hardest position to play and to coach. Having a dedicated goalie development program is essential to having a successful hockey team and in turn, a stronger hockey club.”

Kinsey played for the Jr. Gulls and is now back coaching in the association.

“The Jr Gulls program’s commitment to the development of strong netminders has taken a front seat,” Kinsey said. “In the past, a club would look for strong tendies, then go after and recruit them. We now make a solid investment in the development of them with more dedicated ice time, specialist coaches and off-ice training facilities. In a recent conversation with Demko, my former teammate, we agreed that in our day, we had to find our own goalie coaches, clinics, use our own money, and travel distances to get the training we needed to become one of the best.

“The Jr. Gulls have turned this around and put their players first.”

— Matt Mackinder

(Nov. 27, 2018)