The 2018 USA Hockey Girls Under-18 Select Player Development Camp is in full swing as 70 players from across the country have made Biddeford, Maine, their home for a week.
The USA Hockey camp curriculum emphasizes the importance of off-ice training and strength and conditioning, and that has been evident during the opening days of the camp.
"Our goal is to really hammer home the fact that the off-ice training, their mental skills training, their on-ice and technical, tactical side, it's all going to be important in their immediate time frame and their long-term development," said Reagan Carey, USA Hockey’s director of women's hockey. "(We are trying to) educate them on how to do that correctly and how to do that in a balanced way. It's a lot of what we try to do in this camp in all the categories, but certainly off-ice training gives people a huge advantage early on in their career."
Carey emphasized the importance of the player development camps for USA Hockey's future success at the IIHF World Championship and Olympic levels.
"It's critical. We've had a lot of success at the top level and building that U-18 programming and the expectations and culture early on has really helped us achieve that at the highest level," said Carey, who joined USA Hockey in 2010. "Being able to work with these players and develop them at this age and at this point in their hockey careers is paramount for us."
The players arrived Saturday and participated in on- and off-ice testing on the opening day of the camp. Teams then hit the ice for practice Sunday morning at the Harold Alfond Forum on the University of New England campus and the first games took place that night. Today's sessions featured practices in the morning and evening along with a meeting about nutrition, strength and conditioning led by the USA Hockey staff. The players will return to the ice tomorrow morning for more practice sessions before the next set of games are held in the evening (HockeyTV is live streaming all camp games here). A special part of Tuesday's schedule features an autograph session and meet-and-greet for the public with several U.S. Olympians. Julie Chu, Kacey Bellamy, Brianna Decker, Amanda Pelkey and Jamie Hagerman-Phinney are all part of the experienced coaching staff leading the camp in Biddeford.
"It's exciting to see our Olympians here who have been in the program for a number of years," Carey said. "It's great to see the growth (of the player development camps) and for the Olympians to get excited about it and energized about the future of our sport. These camps demonstrate pretty clearly how talented the skill level is and also the depth of our programming."
Carey is also excited to be back at the University of New England, which is home to both men's and women's NCAA Division III hockey programs.
"It's phenomenal. It's the perfect fit for us. It's like a home away from home here at UNE," said Carey. "We had the opportunity to start here in 2015, that was the first time we had this elite-level camp, so (it's great) for us to be able to do this here at a facility that's first class. We have a terrific off-ice training center, the rink is beautiful, and everybody is really attentive and helpful here as a staff, so it's been great for us."