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Youth hockey team to check out Czech

March 19, 2005|by ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

Kids in the Czech Republic take their hockey seriously.

"They practice every day for a couple of hours over there," Waynesboro High School sophomore R.J. Finafrock said. "They eat, drink and sleep hockey over there."

Finafrock going to get the chance to do the same - over there.

Finafrock is one of 12 players from the Hagerstown Bulldogs youth hockey program who will depart Monday for a 10-day trip to the Czech Republic, where they'll play exhibition games against Czech teams, see the sights and soak in the experience.

"I can't wait to go," Finafrock said. "Hopefully we'll be able to compete."

Williamsport sophomore Nick Bodnar, the leading scorer on Hagerstown's U16 team, seems to have bigger concerns than the competition.

"I've never ridden on a plane before," he said, "so I'm a little scared."

Hagerstown has players on both regional teams making the trip - the Junior team for ages 15 to 18 and the Bantam team for ages 13 and 14. Joining Finafrock and Bodnar on the Junior team are Bulldogs Matthew Callis, Paul Conca, Zachary Constable, Corey Dalton, Joshua Dunkle, Jason Keller, Jonathan Swanson and Andrew Weber. David Arndt, Zachary Nagle, Dustin Nead and Paul Stavrakas are the Bulldogs on the Bantam team.

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The rosters also include players from the Navy Youth Hockey League and the Chesapeake Chiefs.

"We're not piecing together the best of the best," Navy coach and trip coordinator J.P. Mattingly said. "We're just piecing together teams."

Winning is not the top priority of the trip. Hockey is.

"The goal is to take the kids over there and get an experience in hockey and get a different experience in a different culture," Mattingly said. "When kids go somewhere together and don't have to go home at night and stay together, it's much different when after the game they go eat together and go stay in the same hotel together.

"Over there, they'll eat, sleep and drink hockey. They'll be treated just like a pro or college team."

They also will be treated to a different style of play on the ice.

"Over there, it's kind of a game where they skate a little bit more," Mattingly said. "In the Maryland area, it's more 'goon' hockey, more checking and hitting because the kids just haven't learned and they like the physical play of it. Over there, if you try to hit someone they go around you and put the puck in the net."

Mattingly, 38, of Laurel, Md., put the trip together with several contacts he has in the Czech Republic.

"I have friends over in the Czech Republic," he said. "I was a trainer in the National Hockey League for a long time with the Capitals, Flyers, Devils and also in the minor leagues. I met a lot of people all those years in the pros and connected with a few people over there."

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