Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Q&A With Mike Geragosian

Conventional hockey wisdom says you build a team from the goal out. And, as with other positions, raw talent needs to be developed by the coaching staff. For goalies, the tasks include helping them to perfect their technique and enhancing their ability to compete and win under pressure situations.

For sixteen seasons Terrier netminders—including Rick DiPietro, Sean Fields, John Curry, Kieran Millan and Matt O’Connor—have been instructed, supported, cajoled and challenged by BU assistant coach Mike Gerogosian to build on their skills,  and develop the critical mental aspect of goaltending.

An All-New England goalie for Division 2 University of Lowell in the early 1970s, Geragosian has been mentoring goalie for more than 30 years. Before joining Jack Parker’s staff in 1999-2000 (DiPietro’s freshman and only Terrier season), Mike had coaching stints at his alma mater, Princeton and Merrimack. He’s also USA Hockey’s director of development for goaltenders for in Massachusetts and operates Mike Geragosian's All American Goalie Camps.   

Geragosian, who instructs more than 500 goaltenders annually, talked with THFB about his approach to mentoring goaltenders:

Q—Matt O’Connor attended three NHL development camps last summer and his excellent first half has drawn the further attention from NHL teams. What improvements has he made to his game that have contributed to his strong performance?

A— Matt has worked hard on his leg strength on ice with me and off ice with our strength trainer Anthony Morando.  This has led to better skating, puck control and arrival time to positioning. Matt also has improved on his readiness and his set position for all situations including the less challenging ones— where sloppy play can lead to tired defense and poor rebound control and eventually goals against.

Q—In your three decades of coaching goalies, what have been the biggest changes in approach, style and athleticism to the position?
A— The approach is quite different.  The equipment has helped the goalie evolve to being more square to puck, leaving fewer holes under and through the body. The goalies are certainly much bigger in most cases but the smaller ones can also play big.
Also, the coaching of goaltenders has evolved into a performance-enhancement situation aimed at accelerating goalies' competencies. I have taken the hybrid butterfly style and tweaked it into various movement variations that fit the situation.

Q—Which elements of being in good shape do most freshman goalies need to address:  flexibility, strength, skating (side to side), stance, etc.?
A— Most young goalies need to learn to get body positioning that enables reactive saves in the exact area of the target field where the puck is arriving. This takes experience and training on and off ice with coaches who can recognize their skill deficiencies. Leg strength, along with growth development, also helps reaction times and stream skating to exact positional play.

Q—You’ve mentored several outstanding goalies during your tenure at BU? What were the strengths that enabled them to excel?  
A— The common characteristic was they were all great athletes and had good game reads and reactive balance. Although not exactly physically alike, the mental game for all of them was at an extremely high level.

Q—Why do goalies take longer to develop and generally need more time to reach the NHL?
A— It’s usually a long journey for most goaltenders, due to the need for experience in this position. The ups and downs can be mentally difficult. Neurologists have proven that the frontal part of the brain, which helps decision-making, doesn't fully develop until age twenty-six! In contrast, many young goalies have rapid physical development.  So, we have a Mercedes with a Go-cart engine until full brain development can occur.

Q—What qualities do you look for when evaluating a goalie prospect?
A— The four areas of goaltending I look at are: physical, tactical, technical and mental.
The six C's also are important in my evaluation of a goaltender: consistent, compact, capable, concentration, challenging and, most of all competitive. Also, working with the head coaches and recruiting coaches for input and future development has been a recipe for success.

Mike was interviewed by Bernie Corbett earlier this season for Episode 9 of  Inside BU Hockey and discussed the three Terrier netminders. His remarks begin at the 24:10 mark.

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