Summer ice hockey showcase tournaments like Hockey Night in Boston, which staged its 23d annual girls showcase at the Haverhill Valley Forum Aug. 2-5, serve different purposes from one skater to the next.
With a national reputation, the tourney draws college and junior hockey coaches to the stands to watch players. There is a high level of talent, so it helps girls, especially younger ones, get acclimated to playing a high level of hockey. And the pool of players is drawn from near and far, from private schools to public and prep schools.
The Mass Prep school squad this year featured three forwards familiar to each other as teammates at Brooks School in North Andover.
Juniors Lucy Verdone of Newton and Mia LaPlante of Framingham continued to build chemistry with Framingham sophomore Carly Stefanini as they played together in the tournament. Still, their Mass Preps team made a first-round playoff exit after going 1-1-2 in pool play.
With so many potential goals to achieve in just a few days of hockey, each girl has to sift through what they want to get out of the experience. While winning the showcase itself is certainly a big draw, so are personal development and learning to be adaptable beside new teammates.
“I set certain goals,” said LaPlante. “Like picking your head up when you make a pass, looking good on the ice, and making my other teammates look good, because there are a lot of colleges there that you are trying to impress.’’
“It’s always about getting better every time you’re on the ice and just working hard, but as a team,’’ said Stefanini. “Even though we are only together for a couple days, we try to make the most of what we have. We learn the basic systems and how to take those and execute them.”
While tournaments like these certainly test players’ flexibility, there is a certain level of peace of mind that goes with having a coaching system that they’re not only familiar with, but also comfortable with.
For the Brooks School players who took part, that was assured by the presence of still another familiar face on the bench: coach Jenelle Reis.
“I’ve been on teams where there are coaches that you don’t know what to expect from them,” said LaPlante. “So it’s nice to have a coach who you know what they’re looking for in a player.”
The Brooks girls found themselves much sought after by their teammates.
“If there are girls who do not play at Brooks and are just learning [the system],” said Stefanini, “they don’t have to go and keep asking the coach. They can just come to you and ask because you already have the system in your head.
“You can connect right back to the high school season and you can think about where you need to be on the ice and what you need to do.”
The offseason in hockey at this level is long and fraught with potential risks for players. Those making deep postseason runs usually see their seasons end in mid-March. It’s nearly nine months later, in December, that they play their first games after a few weeks of organized practice.
Many high school-aged players see ice time during that stretch, often playing on travel teams with players other than their school teammates. Still, even a few days of competition at Hockey Night can help players build on what they established in the prior season and carry it into the following year.
“It is extremely beneficial to build on the last season so we can improve and be even better for the next year,” said Verdone, the Brooks School player from Newton. “Summer tournaments help us become closer on and off the ice, which is what we need to be successful for the upcoming season.
“We can practice new things together and create even more team chemistry,’’ she continued. “Every time we play together, we are improving and getting even better as a team.”
To Stefanini, playing in the tourney is a reminder of all she loves in hockey.
“Even though Hockey Night in Boston is a showcase for college coaches to come see you,’’ she said, “it helps having your teammates there, because it reminds me why I started to play hockey — which was to make friends and be the best teammate I could.”