By Ottawa Sportspage, For Louis-Riel Rebelles
For Mason Carter, skates are the perfect tool to a higher education and maybe even a pro hockey career.
Rarely are the defenceman’s skates the ideal tool to use to receive a hard pass, but that’s what coach Dan Sauve commands during a frenetic practice session for the Louis- Riel sports-study hockey program. The idea is that when the stakes are high, players will be able to call upon a sometimes overlooked ability with confidence. “The program here is awesome,” says Carter, a key figure for the 26-2-1 Rockland Nationals U18 Midget ‘AAA’ squad. “It’s not flow drills or systems, you’re mostly working on personal skills like puck protection or stick handling – doing things that you don’t really get to practice at a team practice.”
Sauve, who coaches for the Nationals Jr. ‘A’ club that Carter hopes to join next season, leads the program’s afternoon sessions at Bob MacQuarrie Recreation Complex – a short trip by Rebelles sports-study bus from the nearby high school.
The high-performance practices take the place of a regular phys ed class during school hours. They occur every second day; the other half of the time, program participants are working out in the world-class Dome LR, adjacent to the school. For hockey-mad players like Carter, it gives them the edge they need to excel.
“It’s a lot of hockey,” smiles Carter, who’s on the ice another four times a week with his club team.“And a lot of stress on your body. But it’s good. It gets you in shape.”
The physical training at the Dome is led by Jean-Robert Leger. Leger has worked with just about every east-end hockey player who’s made it to the pros in recent years, including Louis-Riel grads Erik and Alex Gudbranson.
“It’s cool if you think about it, because he trains OHL guys, AHL, NHL,” highlights Carter, who also works out with Leger in the summer. “It’s cool to look up to them and just watch how they train. We’re lucky to have that.”
Several fellow Midget Nationals teammates are also part of the Louis-Riel program, which includes two tiers to allow players to develop at an ideal pace against well-matched counterparts.
“It helps you work on the harder things, the stuff you want to improve on,” signals Carter. “You have guys pushing each other to get better.”
The program helps Carter in his quest towards his biggest future goal: getting a great education while playing hockey.
“Obviously I want to reach the highest I can – everyone does,” signals the past Eastern Ontario Cobras and Wild player from Embrun. “I want to be able to play against bigger and stronger guys every year, train as hard as I can to get to the next level, and just do the best I can.”
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