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Jr. Sharks giving goaltenders more guidance

 

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The San Jose Jr. Sharks have expanded their network of coaches this season to include some specialized training for the organization’s goaltenders.

Former goalies Rick Cazares and Evgeni Nabokov – the latter an ex-San Jose Shark who spent parts of 14 seasons in the NHL – have both been brought on board to help out with goaltender development at varying age and skill levels within the Jr. Sharks program.

“It’s working out really well,” said Cazares, who was born and raised in San Jose. “I’m getting a lot of great feedback from the goaltenders I’m working with, and the parents and coaches as well.

“If I can be out there and work with them on the side during parts of practice where forwards and defensemen are working on skating drills, I think it’s a lot more beneficial than having them just sitting around or participating in player drills.”

While primarily working with goaltenders at the AA and AAA levels, Cazares recently moved back to San Jose from Chicago, where he was coaching varying age groups ranging from you to college-aged players at Robert Morris University Illinois.

After splitting time during his playing days at both Michigan Tech University and SUNY-Fredonia, Cazares is eager to be working solely with goaltenders of all ages.

“This is my fourth year being strictly a goaltending coach for an organization,” said Cazares. “I enjoy working with the individual goaltenders a lot – maybe more than working with an entire team.

“It’s a specialty; it’s definitely the hardest position in any sport and it takes a certain breed of individual to attack and accept that challenge, because mentally and emotionally it’s difficult.”

However, the difference in age groups does present some challenges. While Cazares works primarily with the AA and AAA levels, since he’s always at the rink he’ll lend a hand with any goaltender looking to improve his or her game. With such a wide range of ages and levels, Cazares has to tailor his approach in a way that best reaches the current player he’s working with.

“There are always different levels of maturity with goaltenders,” said Cazares. “As a result, I have to figure out how to apply my strategy of coaching in the best way in order to reach these kids.

“The approach when you sit and talk to a young kid compared to an older kid is completely different. That’s probably the hardest thing – the age difference is challenging because you can’t approach every kid the same way, but the challenge of figuring out how to best do that is really rewarding for me.”

Being able to stay in the game through coaching is something Cazares cherishes and doesn’t take for granted, but being able to do it in the city and rink he grew up playing in does add a little extra for the 33-year-old.

“It’s still early in my tenure here, but I’m extremely happy,” said Cazares. “I feel like everyone is excited to have me around as much as I’m excited to be around.

“It’s definitely a cool experience coming back and helping out – maybe more so because this is the rink I started out in. Being able to give back is amazing, and being able to watch the kids develop and improve is really gratifying.”

Being able to strap on the skates every day at work doesn’t hurt either, and Cazares plans on passing on the passion and enthusiasm he has for the game to the goaltenders he’s working with.

“I’m fortunate to be able to do this, and I’m blessed to be able to say that when I’m going to work, I’m going to the rink,” said Cazares. “This is the only thing I’ve done and believed in my whole life, and I’m fortunate to be able to continue doing that.”

– John B. Spigott