Future Olympic coach Katey Stone hosts girls' clinic

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Future Olympic coach Katey Stone hosts girls' clinic

LINCOLNWOOD -- The Under-14 girls took turns fighting for control of the puck, pushing each other as if they were competing for a spot on a team.

On Saturday, these were just drills. But they were also drills led by one of the most successful coaches in Division I womens ice hockey history and coach of the U.S. Olympic womens team.

Katey Stone, who was named 2014 U.S. womens Olympic hockey coach back in June, led a clinic with Chicago Young Americans girls hockey players at American Heartland Arena on Saturday. Stone, who has the most Division I womens hockey victories among active coaches (378 at Harvard University) ran separate sessions for U14, U16 and U19 girls. Longtime friend Kenny McCudden, the Chicago Wolves skating and skills coach, also helped run the clinic.

For Stone, theres nothing like the game of hockey.

It empowers women, young women, to do something at a highly intense level and be successful at it, Stone said. Its fast, its competitive and its so different than any other game.

For the girls who participated, working with Stone was a tremendous opportunity.

Its fun because she has so much experience. Shes a really great coach and really an inspiration, said 14-year-old Shea Nelson of Evanston. Its fun to be on the ice with someone with that much history of hockey. It makes the whole game that much better.

Amelia Murray, 14, of Crystal Lake, said it was an enjoyable day.

She just tried to get us to have fun, said Murray, who switched to hockey from figure skating after her dad told her she was too fast for the latter. We were working on skills, but she was making sure we had fun at the same time. We also get to know what we need to know for college. CYA, all these teams, their goal is to get you into a great college.

Stone grew up at a time when girls playing hockey was truly a rarity. She began playing when she was three, when she and her older brothers would get on the pond in front of her house in Connecticut. She was the only girl playing at the squirt level, with only a few more playing at the bantam level. But being one of few girls playing didnt stop Stone.

Some came after you a little bit, but it was good for me, Stone said. I held my own and learned a lot of lessons. The prep school where my dad worked had a girls team, and from that point on I played.

Flash-forward to today, when these girls have so many more opportunities to play. There were more than 100 girls combined at Saturdays clinic, and Stone said the lessons they learn from playing are immeasurable.

We never went overnight to a tournament; it was always local, just in and out. For these kids, that transition going to college now is so much easier, she said. They play a ton of games, travel a lot and learn how to manage everything else in their life, which is critical.

Still, a few more lessons from Stone didnt hurt.

She taught us that, if you make a bad play, just get over it and make up for it. Dont sweat it, Nelson said. A lot of times in games if I make a bad play, I just keep focusing on it the rest of the game. Its good to just let go.

Hockey paved a great path for Stone I couldnt be luckier, honestly, she said. Now hockey is giving another generation of girls the tools to succeed, on and off the ice.

One of the biggest things for me is the willingness to prepare. Its one thing to be competitive but how willing are you to really prepare and put yourself in a position to win? Stone said. Thats something that women thrive on, and thats why women in business and everything in life have been so successful. Theyve had great opportunities and theyve made the most of the ones theyve had.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

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Five Things to Watch:

1. How will Blackhawks respond to worst loss of season?

The Blackhawks suffered their worst loss of the season on Saturday in a 7-0 rout at the hands of the Panthers. It was the first time they've lost by at least seven goals since 2011 when Edmonton beat them 9-2 and the first time they lost 7-0 since 2001 against San Jose; the Blackhawks lost to Washington 6-0 earlier this year. But by no means was Saturday their worst effort of the season. A questionable interference penalty by Marcus Kruger led to a two-man advantage, which Florida cashed in on with a goal and another shortly after, and it opened up the floodgates. Expect a big bounce-back against a hungry Lightning team.

2. Lightning fighting for playoff lives.

Every game is a must-win for the Lightning with eight games remaining on their schedule. They're three points out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand on the Bruins, who currently occupy that spot, but still have to jump the Islanders. The Lightning didn't do themselves any favors by losing three straight in regulation last week, but they've won two in a row and tonight will be the first of a four-game homestand for them.

3. Keep the puck off Nikita Kucherov's stick.

There isn't a hotter player in the NHL right now than Kucherov, who has seven goals and two assists in his last four games. He's had two hat tricks in the past month, and he ranks sixth in the league with 78 points and second in goals with 38. You know how lethal Artemi Panarin's slapshot is from the left faceoff circle? That's Kucherov, but on the right side.

4. Staying disciplined.

The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team in the league, but they acted out of character Saturday by racking up 30 penalty minutes. They were also slapped with a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties, which isn't something you normally see from Joel Quenneville's teams. Ryan Hartman, who along with Marcus Kruger was penalized for "yapping" at the officials, accepted responsibility for it after the game, and insisted it "won't happen again."

5. Special teams to play key factor?

On the flip side, the Lightning are the second-most penalized team, averaging just over 11 penalty minutes per game. Power plays will be key for the Blackhawks in an effort to keep Tampa Bay's collection of talented young goal scorers off the ice. The Lightning also boast a top-five power play unit with a 22 percent success rate. Both teams would be better served staying out of the box and making this a 5-on-5 battle.

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- Latest on the Blackhawks: All of the most recent news and notes

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Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

The Blackhawks have talked the past several games now about how they need to play better, how they need to get back to their 60-minute game. But even when you tell yourself you have to improve the message doesn't always translate into immediate action. That's especially true if, despite so-so play, you're still managing victories or still eking out a point.

Sometimes, you need a jolt to realize you have to get better. Well, that thud the Blackhawks made in South Florida ought to get their attention. 

The Blackhawks' 7-0 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, that "ugly, ugly game," as coach Joel Quenneville, is the latest in what's been a mediocre stretch for the team. They've been leaning on their goaltending again (please see Minnesota, Montreal, Ottawa and Dallas games). Or they've been leaning on their ability to wake up in the third period after sleepwalking through the first two. Sixty-minute games and four-line rotations, such a big part of the Blackhawks' success through February and early March, have been absent.

Call it the Blackhawks' mid-March malaise.

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It hasn't been more painful because the Blackhawks have still found ways to get points. Or at least they did until Saturday night, when two "yapping" penalties – Quenneville's (accurate) description of Ryan Hartman and Marcus Kruger's unsportsmanlike calls – started the Blackhawks' demise against the Panthers. Players told the traveling media following the game that this was a wake-up call. It ought to be.

Granted, the Blackhawks' late-season issues aren't as bad as some of their fellow Western Conference teams. The Minnesota Wild are 3-10-1 in March. The San Jose Sharks have lost six in a row. This also isn't the first time the Blackhawks have gone through this late-season mediocrity.

Entering the 2015 postseason they struggled to score goals and lost four in a row (five goals in those four games). It turned out alright. Still, best to avoid bad habits.

Perhaps the Blackhawks are in a bit of a swoon because, really, there's not much for which to play in these final few games. They don't care if they win the Presidents' Trophy (and they probably won't). They're currently in first place by seven points following the Wild's 3-2 overtime loss to Detroit on Sunday. Whether the Blackhawks finish first or second, they'll start this postseason at home. 

So is this panic-inducing? No. Is it a concern? Certainly. The Blackhawks can't start thinking they'll automatically flip the switch as soon as the postseason begins.

The Blackhawks want to get their four-line rotation going again. Artem Anisimov returning in the next week or two will certainly help that. They want to get their overall game going again. The Blackhawks have been telling themselves what needs to be done for a few games now. Maybe they needed a wake-up call. On Saturday, they got it.