Coach Looks To Strike A Winning Balance At Nationals

Some teams are just happy to reach the Toyota-USA Hockey National Championships. Others are all business and 100 percent focused on the task at hand.

Chris Ferazzolli felt it was important to strike a balance between the two extremes when it came to preparing his Tampa Elite team for the 16 & Under Tier II tournament.

Skating in the 16-team 2A division, most of the Elite’s players had never played in a National Championship tournament before. Still, Ferazzolli was confident that their experiences during the season, especially their battles with the crosstown rival Tampa Scorpions (the team that would eventually be crowned the 2A national champs) had prepared them for the increased intensity and skill level they would face in the Dallas suburbs of Plano and Farmers Branch.

“You’ve got to know that every game you come in, you’re going to play a top team, probably the top team from their state. Just to get this far, you’ve got to know you did a lot right to get here,” said the 34-year-old coach, originally from Floral Park, N.Y. “You make sure your players know what to expect and just keep reminding them of the little things we’ve harped on all year. You talk to them about nutrition and getting the proper sleep and staying in a consistent routine.”

Assessing their tournament schedule, the Elite knew its first two games would be tough tasks, especially the opening contest against the Ashburn (Va.) Xtreme, so Ferazzolli tried to keep the team a little more under wraps for the first couple of days.

“You know you’re playing the No. 2 team in the country on the first day, so you want to stay focused and get them settled in after traveling,” Ferazzolli said. In the end, the plan worked as the Elite held on to beat the Xtreme, 3-2, to open the tournament, and closed out the preliminary round with a 16-0 drubbing of the New Hampshire East Eagles. In between, a 2-0 loss to the eventual finalist Affton (Mo.) Americans would prove to be the team’s downfall as it missed qualifying for the quarterfinals due to the goal differential tiebreaker.

By then the coach had loosened the reins a little and allowed his players to do some sightseeing and take in an Allen Americans hockey game. It was time to enjoy the fruits of a long and successful season.

John Tranchina is a freelance writer from Broken Arrow, Okla.


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