Taking Leadership Role With U.S. Hockey Program, Princeton’s Kampersal Guiding U-18 Women’s Squad
Figuring that he was pretty much out of the loop when it came to the U.S. women’s hockey program, Jeff Kampersal wasn’t expecting to be pressed into service any time soon on the national level.
“I had done a lot of U.S. hockey work over the years but I had been out of it since 2006,” said Kampersal, the longtime head coach of the Princeton University women’s hockey team. “Last year I was in a camp with some of the older players.”
But as he was focused on getting the most out of his Tiger women’s team during the 2011-12 campaign, Kampersal got an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“The U.S. people called me in the winter and asked me to head the Under-18 women’s national team,” recalled Kampersal.
“I was surprised. It is an exciting opportunity; getting the chance to work with coaches like Courtney Kennedy (a Boston College women’s hockey assistant coach) and Steve Guider (head coach of the Blaine High (Minn.) girls’ hockey team) and some amazing hockey players.”
This week, Kampersal will be behind the bench for the first time in game action for the U-18 squad as it faces Team Canada in Blaine, Minn. for a three-game series.
“We will have the nucleus of the team for that series,” said Kampersal, who has spent much of the summer scouting tournaments and holding camps to narrow his player pool as the team prepares to take part in the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World U-18 Championships from December 29, 2012 to January 5, 2013 in Finland.
“If we do well, we won’t make many changes. If we don’t do well, we can look at other players over the fall.”
In putting together the best team possible, Kampersal is drawing on the experience he has gained from heading the Tiger women’s program over the last 15 years and guiding it to a 233-184-41 record.
“About 75 percent of the job of a college coach is recruiting; I believe I can evaluate players,” said Kampersal, a 1992 Princeton graduate who was a star defenseman for the Tiger men’s hockey program.
“At this level, we have a depth of strong players. We don’t have an exceptional player but we have a lot of good players. If I took the first 20 and you took the second 20, we could have a good seven-game series. We may not want to take the 12 best forwards, we may want to take three who grind and three with speed.”
In Kampersal’s view, the experience of leading the U-18 team should make him a stronger coach.
“I think running bigger practices will help me,” said Kampersal, noting that cutting players has been the toughest aspect of the job.
“It is good working with the other coaches and sharing ideas on things like power plays. We need to keep it as simple as possible. We can’t overcoach. There is not enough time to do that but we can emphasize basic principles.”
Getting to apply those principles on a world stage will be exciting for Kampersal.
“I have been involved in a U-22 series against Canada but I never represented the U.S. in a world championship as either a player or coach; it is really special,” said Kampersal. “It has been a lot of fun so far; the people are amazing.”