The Atoms program provides the beginning skater (any age) with an introduction to the sport of hockey in a fun-filled environment. Skaters receive instruction on basic hockey skating skills: forwards, backwards, stops and turns. They are taught basic stick handling, passing and shooting skills. Practices consist of traditional hockey drills interspersed with fun games utilizing the skills they are taught, all utilizing USA Hockey's ADM Model.
To be clear, Atoms takes all beginning skaters, but we strongly encourage parents to utilize Learn to Skate classes run by USM prior to signing up for Atoms. There is a five week session prior to the start of Atoms during the month of October. A good litmus test would be: your child should be able to get to a standing position on their own after a fall and move around the ice without external support.
The Atoms season begins in late October and runs through early March. Practices will be held on weekends only, once on Saturday and once on Sunday. While the focus is always on skill development, as the season progresses we will incorporate more structured games from time to time.
Our program includes a special evening at an Admirals game where the skaters play a full ice game before an Admirals game (approximately 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.), have dinner as a team and then a small five minute game between one of the periods at the Admirals game.
We encourage interested parents to assist during practices. Coaching skaters at this level is very labor intensive as skaters require individual attention to learn proper hockey skills. The club strives to provide as much individual attention as possible by involving many coaches on the ice. The Atoms program is an exceptional introduction to ice hockey for both the parent and skater.
The Mite program, for skaters aged 7 & 8, continues to develop the basic skating skills learned at the Atoms level. Skaters are taught edge control (a hockey skate has an outside and inside edge with a hollow center) and forward and backwards crossovers. Puck control, passing and receiving, shooting, non-body contact checking and basic goal tending are introduced at this level.
Skaters learn basic team play concepts and positions. Generally, at the start of the year the Mite team looks like a scrum or bee swarm chasing the puck. By the end of the year the skaters are in their respective positions, passing the puck and demonstrating the fundamentals of team play. Some of the greatest strides in basic skill development and team play occur at the Mite level.
MWC has fully embraced cross-ice hockey at the Mite level, as recommended by USA hockey. The kids will be divided by skill level into three groups/levels: Red, White and Blue. Red will generally be the older more experienced skaters, followed by the Whites, with the Blue squad consisting of younger less experienced skaters. There will not be formal tryouts, as players will be placed on teams as the coaches observe the first month of practices.
Mites generally have two weekend on-ice sessions (practices or games) and one mid week practice held at the Kern Center downtown. Game play usually starts in late October and continues to mid March. Games are limited to 25 per season and we target a practice-to-game ration of about 3-to-1. The Mites play teams from other area clubs at their level. At this age we believe in rotating the goalies, so each skater will be asked to play in the net for a game or two. Parents and skaters are exposed to minimal travel as mite teams will generally play teams within a one hour driving radius from the Winter Club rink.
Mite skaters learn the importance of being part of a team, respecting their teammates and opponents, basic team play, the key rules of hockey, self discipline, a strong work ethic, commitment to a team and to always try their best. Mite hockey is exciting and fun for the entire family.
The squirt program is for 9 and 10 years old and is designed to build on the skills and concepts learned at the mite level. The players are challenged to improve on the individual skills of skating, passing, shooting, and positioning while furthering their knowledge of hockey team systems such as offensive and defensive zone concepts.
Squirts generally practice two nights during the week and play games on weekend. MWC places strong emphasis on individual skill development at this level. As a result, 60% to 70% of practice time is dedicated to skill progression and small games. This focus allows players to improve their individual skills while having fun. Additional team strategies and hockey concepts are introduced and reinforced during the remaining practice time.
Squirt skaters typically start playing games in early November and play into early March. MWC limits the number of games at the squirt level to 25-30 games during the season and team officials work together to limit travel while maintaining a competitive schedule. The Squirt program, while it is competitive, places greater emphasis on skater development, sportsmanship and team work then a team’s wins and losses. Checking is not allowed at the squirt level.