Other than the fact the Stanley Cup Finals are being played in June, the thought of ice hockey in the summer months seems a bit out of place.
The Mansfield ISD hockey program is following the opportunity to spend the scorching days of June, July and August on the frozen surface and the result will be the formation for much of the next season’s varsity and JV team composition.
Although the last campaign for the Mansfield varsity squad had more than its fair share of struggles, the team was still forming a sense of cohesiveness and gaining experience.
In contrast, the JV Silver version of the Mansfield team, bounced back from an season opening loss and then ripped through the division and the playoffs to take the championship.
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The excitement generated by that success is helping fuel new participation and interest in the Mansfield program and JV coach Tanner Thomas said it was evident during the recent tryouts.
Thomas said there were 30 players at the recent hockey camp, with at least 10 new players at the tryouts who will be eighth and ninth graders.
Many of the players may be undersized at present, but Thomas noted that at this age, many kids will grow an inch or two and put on weight in a summer growth spurt.
“We may be small, but the kids have good speed and they understand the game,” Thomas said. “Once we get them all following the tight rope, they’ll learn how we want to play hockey.”
The experience gained by the older JV players will enable them to make the jump up to the varsity team, Thomas said after watching the players during the early summer games.
“We had so many varsity players leaving, half of our guys are moving up to varsity,” Thomas said. “We’ve still got a good core coming back from last season, though.”
Another aspect of the team has gained experience as well.
The board of directors for the Mansfield program has been hard at work promoting the program and putting its stamp on the organization, as Thomas phrased it.
For now, the summer season will aid in building the younger players as they face a higher level of competition each Sunday in the summer league season.
“With this competitive league, they’ll come to understand the competition within about a month and we’ll get on the same page,” Thomas said. “It’s part of the learning curve.”
The new combinations on the ice – both for the JV and varsity teams – will improve with ice time as they learn the offensive philosophies.
“We’ll see where our strengths and weaknesses are and can focus on that in training camp,” Thomas said.
The regular season will begin practices in late August and will have four to five weeks’ worth prior to the first game of the season in September.