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The Prime Experience: Playing For The Boston Shamrocks

Friday, August 19, 2016, 10:08AM
By Joshua Boyd
USA Junior Hockey Magazine

The Boston Shamrocks offer ice throughout the summer, with midday skates for local players. But, that is just the tip of the iceberg for summertime preparation for the Shamrocks. “They also have an option to play in a Monday night high school league or Thursday night college league, in addition to the midday skates,” said Bob Rotondo, owner and general manager of the Shamrocks, as well as owner of Ristuccia Arena.

He is especially happy to have the U.S. National Team training this summer at Ristuccia – what an opportunity for the Shamrocks (who range in age from 14 to 19) to see the highest level of hockey for women firsthand, and to share rink space with some of the best talent in the world. “The National Team players are on the ice from 4-5 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. The Shamrocks get to see Meghan Duggan, Kacey Bellamy, Hillary Knight, Brianna Decker,” said Rotondo. “We're going to try to incorporate them to work with all of our girls, from the U12's to the U19 Junior Women's Hockey League team.”

The U19, U16 and U14 teams feel more than lucky to be part of the JWHL – which plays nearly all of its league weekends on college campuses. The season starts in October, when the Shamrocks host a league weekend at Merrimack College. “The competition, the college coaches' attendance – the JWHL is second to none,” Rotondo added. “It's equivalent to the Tier-1 USHL.”

“There's also the ice time that we have,” added U19 Head Coach Danielle Doherty. “We'll skate five times per week. Depending on the travel, that could be four days a week. There's also the opportunity to get on the ice early to do 1-on-1 skills sessions, there's the benefit of the girls doing online school at our rink. “If the girls get their schoolwork done, we can jump on the ice for skills before afternoon practice,” she said. “The players' academic grades have to be high in order for them to skate with us.”

The message has been spread during several recruiting trips – Thunder Bay, Ont.; Coral Springs, Fla.; Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.; and all the way north and west to Alaska. Players from all of these locales were scouted and signed for the upcoming season. “Each of our coaches goes out and recruits for the other, even if they're all working for different Shamrocks teams,” added Rotondo. The Shamrocks just want to bring these players in and help them to do what so many Shamrocks players have done before – advance to play college hockey. “The No. 1 priority is to get them physically and mentally able to play to the best of their abilities,” said Doherty.

Along with amenities like a 108-inch TV screen for video review of games, the Shamrocks' JWHL teams also has access to Mike Boyle's Strength and Conditioning, one of the top training centers in the Northeastern U.S. “They're working out side by side with the U.S. National Team girls right now. In the winter, they're down there at least twice a week with either Mike or one of the other trainers who works with the National Team,” added Doherty.

The U19 team has signed its 2016-17 team, and Doherty is excited to bring this team to the North American Hockey Academy's annual Labor Day Tournament. From the NAHA tournament, the team will go to the Stoney Creek (Ont.) University Showcase.

The Shamrocks' JWHL season begins on Oct. 7, with the opening game in the first league weekend at Merrimack College, hosted by the Shamrocks. The team will also have showcases in October in Rochester, N.Y., and in Burlington, League weekends in November will see the Shamrocks traveling to Colgate University and to Buffalo, N.Y. December will see one JWHL weekend at Providence College, while also playing at two tournaments in Toronto and just outside of that city.

The Shamrocks will host its own tournament in local area rinks for the U19's and U16's, and the JWHL also has a big league weekend in Minnesota. The annual JWHL Challenge Cup is held each February in the Washington, D.C., area, and the JWHL playoffs will be held in Buffalo, March 10-12.

“With six returning players, I had to recruit a whole new team. It'll be exciting to see what these girls do together,” added Doherty. “I expect them to give 100 percent every day, as we're giving 100 percent to them. If they're working hard and doing everything right and staying disciplined, we should be successful.”