By Greg Gulas
While wins and losses remain the defining characteristic of a season, it isn’t the tell-all of what a team is trying to accomplish over the long haul, according to Youngstown Phantoms coach and general manager Anthony Noreen.
While speaking to the Curbstone Coaches at their weekly Monday meeting, the second-year USHL coach noted that while there are going to be bumps in the road over the course of a campaign, never losing sight of four basic principles is what will ultimately define the players that play under him.
“Our players range from 15-20 years of age and we tell each and every one of them that playing in the USHL won’t define their careers, instead shaping them as they prepare for the next level,” Noreen said.
“Playing here is not the end of the line because they will all hopefully move on to play at a higher level,” he said.
Noreen’s four basic principles include helping his players become better people as they mature; help them to become better hockey players during their stay with the Phantoms; make sure that they give back to the community; and to perform their best when on the ice.
“It is important for not only our staff, but for the entire organization that we make sure our players learn responsibility as they mature,” Noreen said.
“The goal for every one of our players is that when they leave we want them to become the captain of the college that they choose to attend,” he said.
“Along with that we’ll teach them the game as we have learned it, making sure that the public gets a chance to know our players through their volunteer work; be it serving food at an area soup kitchen or by teaching reading to area school children,” Noreen said.
At 28, the youngest coach in the league doesn’t talk about wins or losses or even the standings, instead opting to focus on his players playing winning hockey.
The Phantoms are 6-11-0 (12 points) overall and in seventh-place in the league’s eight-team Eastern Division.
Injuries and the selection of Austin Cangelosi and J.T. Stenglein to the gold medal-winning Team USA Junior Selects at the recent World Junior A Challenge have contributed to their recent 2-4 record after a 4-0 start to the season.
“We started the season out just fine but have hit one of those road bumps, my roughest as a coach,” Noreen said. “In my mind, we have two options in that we can make excuses and use that as a crutch or we can move on about our business,” Noreen said. “We choose to keep on playing.
“For Austin [Cangelosi] and J.T. [Stenglein] there is no greater honor than to represent your county and win the gold medal,” Noreen said. “That being said we have one of the youngest teams in the league so the upside is that our young players, despite their youth and inexperience, have gotten a chance to speed up their learning process.
“As a staff we have chosen to use this as a learning curve, knowing full well that down the road it will pay great dividends,” Noreen said.
The Phantoms will be in Indianapolis on Wednesday to take on the Ice, then return home for a two-game set beginning Friday when they play host to Team USA at the Covelli Centre.
Curbstone Coaches will break for the Thanksgiving Holiday. When they resume on Dec. 3, Major League Baseball umpire Wally Bell will serve as guest speaker.