Sunday, July 27, 2008

Strait Talk—Q&A with BU's alternate captain

As the 2008-09 season approaches, The Terrier Hockey Fan Blog begins a series of Q&A interviews, one each with a member of all four classes. We begin with junior defenseman Brian Strait, whose solid sophomore season was capped by being voted, by league coaches, runner-up for the Hockey East’s defensive defenseman award and being named an alternate captain for next season. Strait recently answered our questions about his development as a defenseman and his team and personal goals for 2008-09.

Q—You’ve now participated in three Penguins development camps. How has that heightened competition improved your game?
A—It was actually only my second Penguins camp this past June. I feel that every time I go to it, I learn something knew. It is great to work with professional coaches and get their help in order to make the next step which is the National Hockey League. The things that I learn there have helped me become a better hockey player, which will give me the chance to help the Terriers win more hockey games. It is also great to meet the other prospects and make new relationships with guys you might be playing with some years down the road.

Q—What are the Penguins’ coaches asking you to work on in your game? Is it consistent with the direction you’re receiving from Coaches Parker and Quinn?
A—The parts of my game the Penguins want me to work on are the same things that my coaches at BU want me to work on. The Penguins coaches, BU coaches, my teammates, and I all know my strengths and my weaknesses. The only difference is how they approach ways to improve my game. Some of the drills I did at camp to work on something might be a little different than what we do at BU in practice.

Q—Coach Parker touts the World Junior Championships experience for enhancing a player’s development? How did last year’s WJCs make you a better player and, as Team USA’s captain, a leader?
A—Any time you get to wear your countries colors is an experience which stays in your memory bank forever. I have been fortunate enough to wear the USA jersey a number of times and it never gets old. I also have been fortunate enough to wear the "C" on that jersey a number of times which has been great. The level of competition at the WJC was the fastest hockey I have ever played in. The game was much different than college mainly because college hockey is North American hockey and, in the WJC, we played all European teams other than Canada. It is a great experience to take with you though when you get to play in an elite tournament like that to really test yourself against the best in the world. Being the captain of the team was another thing that did a lot for me. I had not been a team captain in about a year and a half before that, so it was good to stay sharp in that area by taking on the duties in that tournament especially because I am going to be in that type of role next year for BU.

Q—What specific parts of your game are you focusing on developing going into your third season? And do you see yourself becoming what is called a “shutdown” defenseman?
A—I have been happy with my personal progress over the past two years and hope to continue to build on that foundation this upcoming season. In order for me to be the best I can be, I will have to become a "shutdown" defensemen for our club this year. I will help out in the offensive end when I can, but most of the time I leave that to my partner Matt Gilroy. The coaches believe that I need to be that shutdown guy in order for me to have success and our team to have success. Every player has his role on the team; I really have to take that shutdown role and have pride in it so I can do my part for us to win hockey games.

Q—How do you see your role as a team leader, now made official as an assistant captain, manifesting itself?
A—I am very excited about being one of the captains on this team next year. Once in a while, when you don't have a letter on your jersey, you become more afraid to speak up or you might not hold yourself as accountable about things. I feel like every time I have been a captain I have done a pretty good job--other than at the end of the WJC when my team collapsed. I have been upset since the end of that tournament about the small things that I let slip, which ultimately cost us a medal. I now know what I have to work on to become a better leader and hopefully put that to use this year.

Q—Coach Parker has acknowledged that, along with spotty goaltending, the unsuccessful switch to a layered defensive style led to BU’s slow start last season. With a largely veteran defense playing the man-style defense, what do you expect from the blueline group? Will this group be able to keep quality shots down, easing the adjustment for the rookie goalies?
A—I was very proud of the way our defense grew up together last year. We had a slow start but once we went back to the man-to-man system, we became a rock back there. We were barely giving up any shots and the quality shots they were getting were not very good either. I think with basically all the guys coming back next year, we should have no problem continuing to defend the way we did last season.

Q—What individual and team goals have you set for the coming season?
A—I have one goal every year and that is to do whatever it takes to help my team win. There is no better feeling in the world than being on a winning team. When you’re on a winning team, that means everyone is doing the right thing and playing well, which in return fulfills your individual dreams.

Q—What areas do you think the BU team must improve on in order to reach the Frozen Four?
A—I am hoping that my teammates and I are not going into this season with our sights set on the Frozen Four. That mindset has killed BU teams in the past. A hockey season is like one big puzzle and the first piece of the puzzle is when we all get back to school and our conditioning starts. If we have guys looking past that, then we are going to have a slow start. Successful hockey teams live for the challenge, not the trophies, and that is what we will have to do this year if we want to be successful.

Q—Do you think the team has the necessary talent and can develop the team chemistry and urgency needed to succeed in post-season play, something it hasn’t done the past two years?
A—We have plenty of talent and chemistry can be made as long as everyone has the right mindset coming into the season. You don't get to the post-season without having a good regular season, so we have to concentrate on doing the right things in September in order to still be around in April.

Q—Which of your teammates do you think is going to surprise BU fans with his play this season?
A—All of them!!!

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