Thornton Park is much different on Mondays at 4 p.m. than it is on Fridays at 9:30 p.m. It’s certainly quieter and less crowded. Your line of sight is clear and you can hear skates cutting against the ice in the absence of rowdy fans. Everyone knows what happens at games, but what about practice? Four Shakerite members were at practice Dec. 5. This is what we saw.
3:30 – The team warms up with a shooting drill. They will only practice for about an hour; according to head coach Michael Bartley, nearly all hockey teams practice for this long because of booked ice time.
3:35 – They discuss forechecking. In simple terms, forechecking is defensive pressure far away from the goal.
3:39 – They begin five-on-five drills focusing on specific situations. The red and white lines – the two best – begin. “Make the defense-to-defense pass,” Bartley tells them.
3:40 – The black and green lines take the ice. The lines alternate every minute. Red and white return.
3:42 – Bartley shoots the puck into the corner closest to the entrance to the rink and the visitors’ bleachers. Junior wing Bijan Gerami checks sophomore defender Max Yauch into the boards near Shaker’s bench.
3:43 – Bartley repeats the process for the red and white lines, shooting the puck into a different corner.
3:45-4:05 –To the untrained eye, it appears that they’re simply competing, and that there’s no subtlety involved. But they’re not just scrimmaging. “OK, defensemen: you’re going to try to wheel the puck this time,” Bartley says. On closer look, the puck goes around and behind the goal on each play – “wheeling” the puck. Then, Bartley changes the objective. “Defense, run a reverse. Forwards, let them make a reverse pass.”
Practices are just as action-packed as games. At 3:51, junior wing John Longman screams “Sam!” to senior center Sam Clellen. At 3:55, a cross pass doesn’t succeed. At 3:59, assistant coach Jonathan Rice speaks inaudibly to the green line on the bench. A moment later, the puck hits the board less than five feet from Bartley, who doesn’t flinch. It might have even gone behind him, or through his legs; it was moving too fast to tell. He is wearing an NHL-style helmet, and the transparent plastic visor is up so he can see more easily, despite sacrificing safety. But he’s used to it: this is his 36th year coaching at Shaker.
4:05 – The team huddles around Bartley, who draws on a handheld dry-erase board. A minute later, they’re practicing screens — a player on offense stands directly in the goalie’s line of sight. He will try to deflect a shot into the goal or recover a rebound off of the boards.
4:08 – Freshman defender Nathan Christman scores on an un-deflected slap shot through junior goalie Josh Piepenburg’s legs.
4:12 – Christman shoots again, and junior center Jacob Shick deflects the puck into the net.
4:13 – Junior defender Jonathan Greenberg asks for a bag of ropes near Shakerite staff members.
4:14 – Each player finds a partner. One player wraps the rope around his middle and pulls the other the length of the rink. The five goalies condition with one another while the rest of the team sprints.
4:22 – Every practice ends with a game. Today, they scrimmage with two pucks. Again, the lines alternate every minute. Sophomore defender Arman Gerami asks sophomore Shakerite staff reporter Shane McKeon to fill water bottles. Rice runs off of the ice and takes the bottles from McKeon because they don’t really need to be filled.
4:29 – The team stretches and leaves the ice. Freshman goalie Grant Passell picks up some accumulated ice in the goal with his stick and throws it in the air.
4:33 – Finally, the Zamboni hits the ice. Bartley speaks in the locker room, and the players leave individually around 5 p.m. Other teams are probably warming up now.
A version of this article appeared in print on 14 December 2011, on page 8 of The Shakerite.