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Northeastern Huskies Enhance Skills While Winning Elite Title

Thursday, August 14, 2014, 11:40PM

- Shawn Hutcheon (High End Hockey Journal)

Each summer High End Hockey has a variety of programs for skaters ages five up to and including National Hockey League players.

One of the most popular programs is the 3 vs 3 league. Teams, comprised of nine skaters and one goaltender, can enter the league or High End Hockey can place players on teams. The ice is divided in half by temporary boards and two games are played simultaneously.

The circuit lasts from early June to the end of August and the teams compete for the coveted HEH Championship t-shirt that each player is awarded after his team wins the playoff round.

This year, the Elite Division, comprised of professional and college players, consisted of ten teams. After a six week regular season then two weeks of playoffs, it all came down to the championship match between the Blues, also known as, the Northeastern University Huskies versus the Senators, a club led by New Jersey Devil Joe Whitney, Winnipeg Jet Will O’Neill, Pensacola Ice Flyers (Southern Professional Hockey League) Steve Bergin and Joe Caveney, Norfolk Admiral (American Hockey League) Steve Whitney, and United States Premier Hockey League standout Tyler Whitney.

It was a fast, highly skilled, back and forth affair but as with most championship games, goaltending was the difference and incoming freshman netminder Jake Theut made several highlight reel saves in backstopping his Northeastern squad to the High End Hockey title.

It is NU’s second consecutive HEH 3 vs 3 championship.

After the tilt, three champions discussed how playing in such a league enhances their skills     

Senior Torin Snydeman uses his 3 vs 3 experience to help him become a better offensive player.

“You have to play in small areas,” said Snydeman, who attended the Arizona Coyotes Development Camp in July. “It helps you work on being creative offensively and because there are a lot of goals scored, it gets you used to finishing and capitalizing on your chances.”

Snydeman also likes the freedom of a league that has no coaches or referees.

“It’s fun,” continued the native of Groton, Massachusetts. “It’s exciting because you just like the freedom of not playing the systems that you do during the regular season.”

Adam Reid, a senior, who hails from Chino Hills, California agrees with his teammate.

“It (3 vs 3 league) gets your confidence back up quite a bit,” Reid, an alum of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, explained. “You get to score more goals than in the regular season, create more offense in small spaces, and just being with the guys is fun because it’s a little bit different from what we do during the year (regular season). It’s the purest form of the game and my first time playing 3 on 3. I really enjoy it and I’ll be back next summer. It works for everybody. You can benefit from playing 3 on 3.”

Colton Saucerman, who is entering his junior year at NU, agrees with Snydeman and Reid in that the league helps with being creative with the puck and feels it enhances other parts of his game, as well.

“For me, personally, it helps with patience and on ice vision,” said Saucerman, who hails from Colorado Springs, Colorado. “I like to be creative and make plays and I think this league helps with that. It allows me to try things that I normally wouldn’t try in game situations and I gain confidence. It also really helps me with one on one battles below the goal line.”

Saucerman made it a point to mention that it is a fun circuit to play in.

“This is really competitive,” he said. “Playing against guys like the Whitney brothers and other guys of such high caliber has really helped improve my game and it’s a lot of fun to just go on the ice and try new things.”

It may be no surprise that Northeastern University is one of the premier teams in Hockey East, the preeminent college hockey league in the country. The players on that team have achieved that through countless hours of intense effort on and off the ice. Playing 3 vs 3 hockey is one such method of enhancing their skills and improving their play.

While 3 vs 3 hockey has its critics, one would be hard pressed to make the argument that it has not assisted in giving players of all ages the edge over those who do not participate in such leagues.

High End Hockey Owner and President Jon Hutcheon, who instituted the 3 vs 3 leagues into his company’s programs did so with one belief in mind.

“The point of 3 vs 3 hockey on a small ice surface is to make players think and react quicker,” Hutcheon, who played five seasons of professional hockey before establishing HEH, said. “Despite the ice surface being 200 feet by 85 feet, the game of hockey is played in small areas so it only makes sense that in order to improve your skills and thought processes, you need to play in a confined area. The players really enjoy it and that’s why, mostly through word of mouth, we have more NHL, AHL, and college players, including NHL draft picks, coming here to play each summer. They see, and feel, the improvements they make and take their improved games back to their winter teams which only helps their teams be better also. It’s a win/win situation.”

After winning two consecutive HEH championships, no truer words have been spoken about the Northeastern University Huskies.