To be a member of the Princeton University men’s ice hockey team, you need to be at the top of your game both on the ice and off.
After all, the Ivy League school is one of the top academic institutions in the country, while its hockey team faces tough Eastern College Athletic Conference competition from the likes of NCAA Tournament regulars and fellow Ivy Leaguers Cornell and Harvard, among others.
In 2011-12, Bob Prier took over as head coach of the Tigers, inheriting a very young squad with only three seniors. After posting a 9-16-7 record in its first year, the Princeton coaching staff looked forward to the 2012-13 season as a chance to make a big jump.
“We knew we would be ahead of where we were last year because of the familiarity the players would have with our staff and our systems," said assistant coach Scott Garrow. “We encouraged them to hold onto the puck and make plays with confidence.”
It wasn’t just the coaching staff looking to improve the players’ confidence both on and off the ice.
Having read an article on The Hockey IntelliGym – a software-based tool designed to develop players’ hockey sense – players Jack Berger and Rob Kleebaum suggested the team implement the off-ice trainer, which uses technology adapted from programs designed to train U.S. and Israeli air force pilots.
“The guys really thought that this product could help not only improve the team’s performance on-ice, but create some competition away from the rink as well,” said Tim Marks, Princeton assistant coach.
“As a staff, we talked about it and figured that if it was able to help the United States Air Force, it must be able to help our hockey team.”
After speaking with his players, Prier turned to Danton Cole, head coach at the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, for his thoughts on The Hockey IntelliGym. NTDP players had been using the product for four seasons, and Cole’s U.S. National Under-18 Team captured the gold medal at the 2012 IIHF Men’s Under-18 World Championship.
“Based on Rob’s recommendation, I spoke with Danton to get his thoughts,” said Prier. “After that conversation, we decided to move forward.”
Princeton players began using The Hockey IntelliGym in September, taking to their computers one to three times each week to engage in the 30-minute training sessions. The program, which purposefully entails basic graphics that help users develop anticipation and awareness, individually tailors itself to each player’s strengths and weaknesses.
Thus far in the 2012-13 season, the Princeton coaching staff is seeing dividends.
“It’s still early in the season, but our power play has certainly improved,” said Prier, whose Tigers had connected on over 25 percent of its man-advantage opportunities early in the season. “The guys are communicating really well and moving the puck around to create opportunities.
“As a coach, you’re always looking for any edge that you can get.”
Alex Clark is a manager of Marketing at USA Hockey.