Jr. Blades captain Joshua Koerner stepped off the ice and headed to the locker room following his final game in the green and blue.
It was a bittersweet moment for the third-year captain. “I’ve spent the last three years with an incredible team and an incredible organization,” said Koerner. “It’s going to be tough saying goodbye.”
After completing three junior seasons where he was top ten in scoring, including a first place finish in 2013, Koerner’s departure will take him back to his native New York, where he will join the SUNY Plattsburgh hockey team.
“The fit academically, athletically and socially was perfect for him (Koerner) to attend Plattsburgh,” said Plattsburgh head coach Stephen Moffat. “Coach O’Had has done a tremendous job coaching and mentoring Josh during his time with them (Florida Jr. Blades).”
Koerner was awarded “Rookie of the Year” and participated in the “Top Prospect” game during his first junior season. Continuing his tenure with the Jr. Blades Koerner experienced back-to-back USA Hockey National Championship runs, two southern division championships, record breaking seasons, three playoff runs and two league championships.
“Sometime people ask me why I’d move to Florida for hockey,” said Koerner. “After the last three years, I think they’re starting to figure it out. Developmentally the Jr. Blades program is fantastic, from coaches to ice time and training, you can’t ask for more.”
The training in Florida helped Koerner increase his strength and power, adding another 25 lbs. in three years. “Koerner has refined his offensive instincts and completely refined his defensive side of the puck,” said O’Had.
Off the ice Koerner was an active participant in the local community. Participating in local events including: Susan G. Komen “Race for the Cure” 5k, Read Across America, “Pink in the Rink” and Dr. Suess reading events at local elementary schools.
With the announcement Koerner is the latest Jr. Blades alumna to make an NCAA commitment.
“Koerner has always been a fantastic addition to our team,” said O’Had. “He’ll bring speed, explosive power and most importantly, character to the Cardinals.”
Speed and character make Koerner a perfect fit with the perennial contenders. “We feel he fits out style perfectly,” said Moffat. “He will be able to use his speed to forecheck and cause turnovers, he will also cause teams fits on the penalty kill.”
“I’m excited to take my hockey career to the next level with the Cardinals,” said Koerner. “But a part of me will always call Germain Arena and the Jr. Blades family.”
“It is so exciting to see Josh advance to the next level,” said O’Had. “As a player he embodies everything great about coaching and helping advancing a young mans dreams. He is an unbelievable talent, with an iron work ethic that will give him great success at Plattsburgh.”]]>
Estero, Fla.—Former Jr. Blade and captain James Hyatt committed to Johnson and Wales (NCAA Division III).
A native of Coral Springs, Fla., Hyatt was a member of the Florida Jr. Blades from 2010-2012. He captained the record breaking 2011-12 season and was seen as a vital part of the Blades back-to-back runs at a national championship.
“Hyatt was a major factor in our back-to-back USA Hockey Nationals berths,” said Jr. Blades head coach and general manager Tad O’Had. “His leadership and character help drive a team and I know he’ll bring these qualities to the NCAA level and have success.”
Hyatt graduated to the AJHL and has spent the 2012-13 season with the Hartford Jr. Wolfpack.
“The Jr. Blades were a huge part of my development,” said Hyatt. “In hockey your team becomes your family and I always know I can come home.”
The five-foot-nine defenseman returns to the Jr. Blades and Estero, Fla. during the off-season to continue his training at Athletic Republic. The performance training facility is home to the ECHL Florida Everblades, hockey and features dedicated trainers and hockey specific equipment, including a hockey treadmill.
“I’ve spent the off-season training at Athletic Republic,” said Hyatt. “The training and conditioning was one of the reasons I originally picked the Jr. Blades and it continues to help me with my hockey career.”
Johnson and Wales is a member of the NCAA division III and feature a promising roster of talent. Hyatt, known for his work ethic is expected to fit right in with the talented group.
“The Blades family is extremely excited for James committing to Johnson and Wales,” said O’Had. “James is a class act and a first rate hockey player, to see him continue to the NCAA level is rewarding. I can’t name a more deserving person, with his work ethic on and off the ice over the past three seasons.”]]>
Troy Degler opened the scoring for the Jr. Blades in Saturdays contest. The Eels answered back the Blades faced their first deficient of the series. Chaise Howard tied the game at 7:29 of the second period and Jon Davidson scored to make it 3-2 Jr. Blades.
Dan Thompson added insurance and defenseman Matt Benolkin scored the game winner to clinch the 6-4 win. Goaltender Jake Carter relieved Eric Sugrue with 14 minutes remaining in the third period.
Carter allowed two goals before shutting the door and Joshua Koerner spoiled the Eels rally with an empty net goal.
The series returned to Germain Arena on Sunday where Carter and the Blades once again took on their cross-town rivals. The Eels nicked the Jr. Blades for a power play goal to start the scoring at 6:00 of the first period.
It would be the only Eels goal as the Florida Jr. Blades went on to score five unanswered goals. Howard recorded his second goal of the weekend to tie the game at 1 and line mate Joshua Koerner spared no time scoring the game winner less than three minutes later.
The Jr. Blades continued to apply pressure with goals from Jake Leonard, Howard and Jeppeson.
“It was a rough series for both teams,” said Jr. Blades head coach and general manager Tad O’Had. “We have high expectations for our players and they lived up to it this weekend.”
The Jr. Blades will next take on the Tampa Bay Juniors on February 9, 2013 in Ellenton and return home on February 10, 2013 at 12:30p.m.
For more information visit www.floridajrblades.com or follow us on twitter: @floridajrblades]]>
The Jr. Blades began playing in the Metropolitan Junior Hockey League for the 2010-11 season before moving to the Empire Junior Hockey League beginning in 2011-12. Both leagues feature 40 game seasons and the Jr. Blades only required two and a half to reach the 100 win milestone.
With a franchise record of 100-19-5 the team continues to build on its culture of winning.
“Our goal is to develop winners on and off the ice in their character, performance and expectations of themselves and their teammates,” said head coach and general manager Tad O’Had. “We’ve had a unique opportunity in Florida to build a great program from the ground up with influences from our professional neighbors (ECHL Florida Everblades).”
If their is one thing the Jr. Blades have learned from their reigning Kelly Cup Champion neighbors, it’s not all about winning, it’s about playing perfect.
“The focus has never been solely on winning it’s about playing perfect,” said O’Had. “It’s understanding our positioning, training regiment, developing our skill sets and gelling as a team.”
The team underwent a 14-day training camp to open the season. The focus was on not on winning, but progression with players being taught how to test their limits and push past their barriers. The result was a roster full of players working towards their goals.
“We break the season down into three sections,” said O’Had. “The goal is to scale upward for playoff and national success.”
While the Jr. Blades are still in the hunt for their first national championship they’ve had many success in only 2.5 seasons. The team has made consecutive appearances at the USA Hockey National tournament, broke league records for most goals scored, fewest goals against, highest winning percentage and most short-handed goals.
The success of the program comes as no surprise to those familiar with the depth of the Jr. Blades program. Starting with recruiting, the Jr. Blades build a team with character. “We start by recruiting the best players possible,” said O’Had. “Then we focus on family and hockey, providing players with the best environment to develop and grow.”
The Jr. Blades organization has a multi-tiered development strategy. Providing players with over 200 hours of practice time, 250 hours of on and off ice conditioning and a full staff dedicated to helping the players succeed.
“Winning is important to us,” said O’Had. “We provide an environment where we not only win, but our players advance to the next level.”
In less than three seasons the ‘Blades have advanced 17 players onto Tier I/II junior as well as NCAA/ACHA and minor pro. The team has seven current or former players deciding on their college hockey futures.
For Tad O’Had win 100 means one thing: “we are doing things the right way.”
Note: Staff includes:
President: Ron Kinnear
GM/Head Coach: Tad O’Had
Asst. Coach: Todd Pocoke
Asst. Coach (Video): Jake Brenk
Strength Coach: Brain Markowitz
Goalie Coach: Mike Shields
Equipment Manager: Tyler Carlson
Dir. Media/Marketing: Chelsea Clyde
Team Manager: Nicole Solow
Academic Coordinator: Hollie Bailey
Estero, Fla.– The Florida Jr. Blades are proud to announce the 2012-13 Empire Junior Hockey League All-Star selections. Five players along with head coach Tad O’Had will represent the southern conference at this years All-Star weekend.
The EmJHL All-Star game will take place in Hookset, New Hampshire on January 20-21. The weekend will feature talent from across the Empire League combining to showcase the top talent.
Jr. Blades head coach and general manager Tad O’Had was selected to coach the southern conference team. This is the second consecutive year that O’Had has had the honor.
“It’s very special to me to be selected to coach the south team,” said O’Had. “I take great pride in hockey in the south and this is an incredible experience because I get to share it with five deserving players.”
Representing the Jr. Blades will be forwards Joshua Koerner, Troy Degler and Chaise Howard. Koerner is having a standout season, leading the empire league goals (33) and total points (52).
“Joshua Koerner is a tremendous captain and shoulders the responsibility for much of the Jr. Blades,” said O’Had. “In my opinion he is not only the best player in the league, he is one of the finest young men I will ever coach.”
The 2012-13 All-Star game will be Koener’s second appearance and the first for Degler and Howard.
“I’ve watched Degler and Howard develop over the last three seasons and I like what I see,” said O’Had.
“Troy is a player that makes you get out of your seat, he possess the puck better then any single player in the league,” said O’Had. “He will enter the corner with three players and will always come out with the puck. He will really wow the scouts up in New Hampshire.”
Line mates with Koerner and Degler, Howard has had his own standout season. “Howard is an offensive horse who has really taken off this year,” said O’Had. “His speed, strength and power have allowed him to open up his scoring touch and be one of the best in the league.”
On defense the Jr. Blades send Matt Benolkin. A true two-way defenseman, Benolkin has been a staple of the Jr. Blades defense this season.
“His (Benolkin) professionalism and ability to make a smart play has elevated his own game and that of his teammates,” said assistant coach Todd Pococke. “Benolkin has a bright future and is one of the finest defensemen in the league. I look forward to seeing his success at the collegiate level.”
Rookie sensation Jake Carter will man the pipes for the south team. Carter enters the All-Star competition ranked in the top-ten for goaltenders in the Empire League having allowed only 34 goals on 443 shots.
“Carter has taken control of major games for us all season. His size, athleticism and ability to stop pucks in unmatched,” said O’Had. “He has incredible talent along with being an excellent teammate who brings a great deal of levity to the dressing room.”
Jr. Blades alternate captains Dan Thompson and Jon Davidson were selected as alternates for the competition.]]>
Rookie defenseman Michael Haskins opened scoring at 1:26 of the first period and with strong goaltending from Eric Sugrue the Jr. Blades never looked back. Chris Lepore with assists from Max Cobb and Austin Hefferin scored an insurance marker at 14:09 of the second period. Troy Degler and Joshua Koerner rounded out the scoring for the Jr. Blades.
The competition continued Sunday at Germain arena with several Jr. Blades having multipoint efforts. Dan Thompson (2g, 1a), Matt Benolkin (3a), Troy Degler (1g, 2a) and team captain Joshua Koerner (1g, 2a) all recorded three points in the contest. Chaise Howard (2a), Chris Lepore (2g) and Jon Davidson (1g, 1a) each added two points in the Jr. Blades 9-3 win.
“The level of competition we showed was excellent,” said head coach and general manager Tad O’Had. “We had point production on all four lines, good defense, solid passing and our goaltenders held it down.”
While familiar rivals the Eels brought a high level of competition to the weekend series. “I was impressed by the Eels,” said O’Had. “They had outstanding goaltending and competed hard the entire weekend.”
The Eels net-minder Marc Terriault turned away 96 shots in the two games while Joshua DeLezenne (1) and Alexander Sanchez (2) provided offensive support.
“The level of competition was up all weekend,” said O’Had. “Both teams had to fight for every inch and it’s games like this that make you better.”
The Jr. Blades open the 2013 portion of their season at a winter showcase on January 3 in Massachusetts.]]>
The Jr. Blades dominated the 2011-12 season, being named Southern Conference champions, League champions and USA Jr. Hockey National semifinalist, but the organization wasn’t satisfied.
“After last season one of our off season focuses was to elevate the competition on our schedule and continue to showcase our players to the top scouts in the country,” said head coach and general manager Tad O’Had. “We have been successful, undergoing 23 games against the best competition in the country.”
Through 70 days the Jr. Blades have competed in 23 games (18 against northern opponents), attended four highly scouted showcases, hosted the inaugural Crocodile Cup (featured 5 of top 7 teams in league), completed a full 14-day training camp and squeezed in some philanthropy, hosting “Pink in the Rink” and raised nearly $1000 for the Susan G. Komen foundation.
“Our players have risen to occasion, battling adversity and injuries to gel as a team,” said O’Had. “A lot of the success falls on the leadership of our team (Joshua Koerner, Jon Davidson, Eric Sugrue and Dan Thompson).
While leading the league in points, the Jr. Blades are ranked 5 in the KRACH league rankings. Highlighting individual successes from forwards Koerner (1 ranked), Troy Degler (5 ranked) and Chaise Howard (10 ranked). Meanwhile defenseman Matt Benolkin showcased his two-way play, being ranked 4 among defensemen in points (12).
Known as an offensive juggernaut, the Jr. Blades also have some of the best goaltending in the league with rookie Jake Carter. Carter is ranked third overall in the league with a 2.03 GAA, .925 SV% and first in shutouts.
“We’ve had some close games against some tough opponents this season,” said team captain Koerner. “As a team we know we can count on Carter to stand tall in the pipes and help us get the win.”
The Jr. Blades have posted wins against Adirondack, Jersey Wildcats, Syracuse Stars, Connecticut Oilers, Space Coast Hurricanes, Brewster Bulldogs, Frederick Freeze, Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Boston Jr. Bruins, New York Applecore, Springfield Pics, Maksymum Hockey, Middlesex Islanders and the Philadelphia Revolution.
“The exciting element of this years team is the play of many of our new comers,” said O’Had. “The veteran leadership on this team has really allowed rookies like Benolkin, Carter, Max Cobb, Brant Takmajian, Adam Fowler, Alec Koenen, Trevor Mullaly and Chase Jeppesen to thrive. We’re looking forward to what the second half of the season holds in terms of development and success!”]]>
A native of Saginaw, Michigan, Pococke’s playing career spanned from AAA (Honeybaked), to juniors and college (St. Louis Bandits, NAHL and Ferris State, CCHA) and minor pro (Florida Everblades, ECHL). “As a player Todd has a wealth of knowledge, winning a National Championship in the NAHL with the St Louis Bandits under coach Jon Cooper,” said head coach and general manager Tad O’Had. “He received a four-year scholarship to CCHA powerhouse Ferris State where he excelled on and off the ice.”
Pococke, completed his four year degree in Corporate Fitness & Wellness at Ferris State before interning and joining the staff of Athletic Republic-Germain Arena. While working at Athletic Republic, Pococke was introduced to the Florida Jr. Blades Tier III hockey program and was an immediate fit with the team.
“Todd understands the players mindset well,” said O’Had. “He’s able to connect with our players, who benefit from his hockey knowledge and his championship attitude.”
Upon Pococke’s promotion players noticed an immediate impact, “coach Pococke makes practices more dynamic,” said third-year Jr. Blade and team captain Joshua Koerner. “You can tell that he know’s what he’s talking about and he’s really involved in the drills.”
Meanwhile Pococke is embracing the opportunity. “Working with the Jr. Blades is personally rewarding,” said Pococke. “I’ve had a lot of the same experiences, playing juniors and working towards college, that I am able to share. It’s a great feeling.”
Pococke and the Jr. Blades take to home ice at 12:30pm on December 2 against their southern division rival the Palm Beach Hawks at Germain Arena. For more information on Todd Pococke and the Florida Jr. Blades visit www.FloridaJrBlades.com]]>