Pond hockey promotes plenty of scoring and open ice, the same features the Fox Valley Hawks pine for in the regular season.
As a prolonged holiday break sends players from Geneva’s Fox Valley Ice Arena to the pickup game scene, the Hawks might be gaining strategy while maintaining their stamina.
“We haven’t been taking as many shots as we should be. We pass the puck a lot and like to move the puck around,” forward Billy Petersen said. “We’ve got to work on shooting it more, even when we’re away from practice.”
Hawks coach Jim Quinn advised the team to scavenge for any nearby pond or rat hockey games between ends of its break. A mixture of players from seven schools – including St. Charles East, St. Charles North, Batavia, Geneva and Kaneland – the Hawks last practiced together Dec. 18, two days after their most recent game.
Fox Valley is set for its first practice of 2013 Monday before resuming league play Jan. 11 against Glenbard. The team enters the new year at 8-7-1.
Sparked by top defenseman Brett Roon (St. Charles East) and goaltender Jonathon Durrbeck of Wheaton Warrenville South, the Hawks have been stingy for much of the season, allowing four goals in their past three games.
“We’ve been playing relatively good. Not great, but relatively good,” said forward Mike Potvin, a Kaneland senior. “We’re looking to be improved the rest of the way and pick the offense up.”
Petersen, an East junior, finds the team’s puck movement to be “pretty sound,” which is notable given the Hawks’ seasonlong theme of self-discovery.
While several players know each other from youth teams, the Hawks remain a first-year mixture of other co-ops from past seasons. The high school hockey fraternity might be a close one, but arguably is not as tight-knit as as the bond shared between golfers from opposing schools.
Then again, forwards Nathan Podraza (Batavia) and Santino Salamone (North) were known to talk hockey while representing their schools on the links in the fall.
Quinn promotes camaraderie with pizza parties and occasional movie outings or other get-togethers, gestures many players call effective.
“When I first got there it was weird playing with guys from other schools,” said Podraza, a senior, “but we’ve really jelled nicely.”
The Hawks tout their conditioning, which partially is a product of drills or punishment skating when the team doesn’t execute offensively in practice.
Drill lines served another purpose in the early season, as some players scrambled to learn teammates’ names.
“They only discourage you from talking when coach is talking,” Potvin said.
A handful of Hawks play with other club teams during the high school season, allowing them to stay in shape during the break.
Fox Valley scrambled to defeat Lake Park in a shootout in one of its final games before Christmas. Players hope their time away didn’t suppress any momentum after a 1-3 start.
“We’re still a younger team. We have a lot of sophomores and some freshmen playing up,” Podraza said. “It’s still a good team, and I love playing with them.
“A lot of games we’ll not come out with our best starts, but the third period seems to be the time we actually put pucks in nets.
No matter the level in hockey – or the setting – that’s the idea.
Once the Hawks come in from the ponds, they plan to make it a reality.