Along with his new position as head coach at Summit High School, JR Engelbert is still active as a semi-pro goalie for the Breckenridge Vipers. Submitted photo
Colorado Hockey Hub: What was your first connection with this particular hockey community?
JR Engelbert: I've been in town for 13 years now. I moved out here from Michigan. As soon as I moved into town I reached out to the local drop-ins and things like that. Just started making connections that way through the hockey community.
New Summit ice hockey coach JR Engelbert. Submitted photo
CO Hockey Hub: When the Summit High School position came open did it spark your interest right away? What interested you about applying?
JE: As soon as Joey (Otsuka) left I started making it known I was interested in the position. I'm the director of operations for the youth hockey association club here, too. It just seemed like it was a good transition, a fairly easy one. Kind of keep things in-house and keep that program developing from mites through high school.
CO Hockey Hub: What kind of familiarity do players have with you going in?
JE: This is my first year full-time as director here. I've been around Summit hockey at the club level for probably four, five years volunteering and helping with goaltenders since that's my background. The high school job and the ability to work with some older kids and things like that was really what sparked my interest. Then keeping what our club level missions are going all the way through high school so there's good consistency for all the kids in the community here, too.
CO Hockey Hub: You helped coach one of the preseason teams. Did that have a lot of carry-over as far as players on the roster?
JE: Our high school preseason team operates under the club association level. So when Joey had to resign to move, (Chris Miller and I) stepped into filling that role right away to keep the kids skating and practicing during that transition. That's when the discussion of A), 'who's going to coach?' and B), if we need to find outside coaching. That's what we just kind of decided was it made sense to go within the organization that was already established and people know already since it was so late in the season.
"It just seemed like it was a good transition, a fairly easy one. Kind of keep things in-house and keep that program developing from mites through high school."
CO Hockey Hub: How would you describe your coaching style and the approach you're taking with the team?
JE: I'm pretty detail-oriented. I put a lot of trust in my players that they're going to trust each other and hold each other accountable and responsible. Knowing assignments, knowing what they're supposed to be doing to be able to trust each other out there to read and react and make plays in the hockey game. We've got systems, we've got X's and O's, but at the end of the day the big focus this year is to get our players to read the game a little bit better and not be so process-oriented. ... Get it to be more where they're learning how to play hockey at that next competitive varsity level.
CO Hockey Hub: You still play a little bit and get the pads on?
JE: Yep, we have a Senior A semi-pro team here in town, the Breckenridge Vipers. I play and I general manage that team going on almost four years now with that. During normal times, we're playing games and traveling and I'm still generally getting on the ice in a player capacity two, three, four times a week in a normal season.
CO Hockey Hub: Do you feel like it helps still being active in the game resonating with players, especially the goalies?
JE: Yeah, I think it definitely helps because even at the semi-pro Senior A level, the game is still evolving much like it does at the other higher levels as well. It's much more of a skilled game than it might have been 10 years ago. Still being active as the game of hockey is developing definitely helps rolling that into your coaching as well. The goaltending side of it, I'm a bit of a nerd when it comes to it. The changes in styles of goaltending even over the last five or six years I've incorporated it into my own game, which then I'm bringing to a modern way of coaching to my goaltenders here at the varsity and club level, too.
CO Hockey Hub: It's pretty early in the tenure, but have you had any moments or stories being with the team that stand out?
JE: I would say the development of watching these players... their progression as a unit together I think has come along a little quicker than what we were expecting. Obviously when you get a new coach and new staff there's a culture change. I think that over the course of the preseason and now we're into the official varsity season, we're pleasantly surprised as a team how we've come together and we're buying into the quote unquote new way of doing things.
CO Hockey Hub: How would you describe the brand of hockey you want to be playing and the style you hope to have on the ice?
JE: We're still trying to develop that. It's early. The Summit team had a pretty big turnover from last year. I think last year they lost seven seniors, then we have a couple other players who moved on to AAA or private schools. So this roster this year is totally different looking than last year's. Until you get on the ice in games with game speed and intensity, it's hard to replicate that in practices. I foresee us being a physical team, probably very much defense-oriented, relying on a strong 'D' corps and goaltending, and trying to take advantage of those opportunities. That's where I kind of see us right now and hopefully developing more offensive power as the season progresses.
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