This originally appeared in the Bell Sensplex Insider newsletter
Many around the NHL have speculated how on earth an Ottawa Senators team ravaged by injury to some of its top players could manage to keep its head above water over the course of the 2013 NHL season. Those who have paid close attention, however, needn’t look further than the masked men in goal for the Sens.
The Sens may have averaged the third highest amount of shots-against per game in the NHL, but their goaltenders were there to answer the bell all season long. Craig Anderson, Robin Lehner, and now-former Senator Ben Bishop combined to provide the Sens with the best team save percentage in hockey at .936 and the second best goals-against average at 2.07.
Individually, Sens ‘tenders Anderson and Lehner were fantastic all season long.
The former was in the discussion for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender since week one. Despite missing several weeks with an injury, Anderson led the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage. Lehner, meanwhile, showed why he is one of the most touted goaltending prospects in the world, posting a .936 save percentage of his own while carrying a heavy load with Anderson out of the lineup.
So how have the Sens goaltenders become the new gold standard for goaltending in professional hockey’s top flight? Good coaching.
Ottawa’s goaltending stable has flourished under the guidance of Sens’ goaltending coach, Rick Wamsley, a former NHLer and Stanley Cup champion in his own right. Wamsley is widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best, goaltending coaches in the NHL and the results of his players are a ringing endorsement of that reputation.
This summer at the Bell Sensplex, young goaltenders have the chance to learn from one of the top instructors in professional hockey as Wamsley will be instructing up-and-comers at his Sens Goalie Camp.
The camp, which features groups for competitive and house league goaltenders of all competitive levels from 7 to 17, will help grow a young goaltender’s game both on and off the ice. On-ice training will fine tune the fundamentals needed to succeed in a game situation, while off-ice training will provide the reinforcement necessary for the player to truly develop.
Those fundamental methods taught to those at camp are modified from what is passed on to those in goal for the Ottawa Senators each day. Goaltending of that calibre is the result of skills which have been developed over time. This camp is designed to build those skills up block by block.
“There’s a couple of basic things that you have to do before you get to the other parts of goaltending,” said Wamsley. “We get the basics down before we move on to the next move. Everything we do is game oriented and the skills they learn, no matter what style they play, can help them in their game.”
With experience playing at, and teaching, the highest levels of the game, Wamsley takes his professional knowledge and bestows it on the next generation of young players, preparing them for success in the game, just like his professional pupils, via simplified teaching methods to help them truly grasp the challenges of the position.
Wamsley has designed the camp experience to ingrain key skills that goalies will not only hone at the camp, but learn how to refine as they continue to grow as a player.
“What I try to do is have a lot of repetition in the camp,” said Wamsley “It’s designed to learn three or four things that happen all the time during the game that they can take in, learn how to practice, and learn how to implement when the game starts.”
The full week of practicing under these conditions only serves to further the learning process, according to Wamsley, as the students begin to develop a better grasp on what is required of them. The camp emphasizes footwork, goaltending structure and handling various shooting scenarios, among other key in-game skills.
“By making them do it more than once during the week, they get an understanding of how to do it more than once, “ said Wamsley. “I don’t know if you can learn a skill or move if you do it once. We try to get them doing it over and over again so that when it happens it becomes instinctive.”
Whether it’s on the ice or in the classroom there will be plenty to learn for goalies at this camp come summertime, and they will leave more prepared to take on the challenges of hockey’s most demanding position.
If the successes the Sens are having in goal are any indication, any goalie who attends should prepare to be a better player when it’s all said and done.
For more information, visit: bellsensplex.ca or call 613 599 0222.
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