Among the participants were five with Minnesota ties, in addition to head goaltending coach Robb Stauber and assistant coach Steve Guider.
The camp was the first women’s only national team camp after six seasons sharing the time with the men’s program in Michigan.
Andover senior and soon-to-be Minnesota-Duluth goalie Maddie Rooney and Maple Grove sophomore Breanna Blesi both said they were excited about the chance to learn as much as possible from the goalies they’ve looked up to like multiple Olympian Jessie Vetter.
“Honestly, she knows when to be funny,” said Blesi, who as the youngest goalie in the camp was partnered with the most experienced veteran in the small-group. “It’s awesome to have someone like that to mentor you through it all and what to expect with colleges.”
The goal of the camp isn’t to see who was the best at the end but who takes away the most and continues to grow.
This is Blesi’s first national hockey camp experience.
“I just had a normal conversation with Jessie Vetter, an Olympic starter,” Blesi said. “That’s pretty cool.”
Aside from sharing ice time alongside Olympic-caliber goalies, the Crimson starter learned a lot in terms of what to work on and what tests the campers went through not only on the ice but in the classroom.
“I need to get better,” she said, realizing the need to hit the weights more to do more than one pull-up.
Last year she was the first alternate for the national development camp for her age group.
She said the focus of the camp isn’t about altering the styles but to focus on the little things on the ice and on the mental aspect of the game.
They spent two hours in the classroom working on what to think and how to keep distractions to a minimum, among other aspects of the game.
“It’s all going to be something I carry on and hopefully I’ll be coaching little ones and be able to pass it along to them,” she said. “They’re stressing that we need to take this back and use it in our game and apply it as much as possible.”
Rooney attended the co-ed Strelow camp in Ann Arbor, Michigan last summer.
She wasn’t anticipating the mental aspect of the camp: learning to stay away from bad habits, being self-aware and confident.
Rooney held her own with the Andover boys varsity program and will join Minnesota-Duluth in the fall under new coach Maura Crowell who replaces five-time national champion coach Shannon Miller.
“I loved it, it was fun,” she said about returning to the boys side for her senior season. “It took a few weeks to get back into it but I felt I adjusted pretty well.”
Guider is the head coach of the Blaine girls hockey program and has participated in USA Hockey camps on a national level since 1998 on an unofficial level.
He was asked back to help run a national camp for goalies under 14 in 2001. Guider still has the voicemail message from then women’s program head coach Ben Smith.
“It was the coolest thing ever,” Guider said about the message. “It took me all of a tenth of a second to say yes.”
He was the only goalie coach overseeing 18 goalies for more than 10 hours per day. “But I worked hard at it and they just kept asking me back,” he said. Last year he coached the under-18s.
This was his first chance to help run a camp of this caliber so close to home.
As for the mental training, Guider said: “It’s always been a huge part of the game. But it’s just the one that’s never coached on.”
At the highest level, Guider learned from Bob Harminson, a sports psychologist with the United States Olympic Committee, that Olympic-caliber athletes might spend 30-60 minutes per training day on mental training in the year after an Olympic cycle. In the Olympic year they spend as much as six to eight hours a day going through mental imagery. “When you get really good at it, your mind doesn’t know the difference between your body doing and mentally doing it. They’ll train two hours physically a day but put in 10 hours in a day.
“It’s incredibly important but never done.”