Co-directors of the Rhode Island Saint M’s hockey program at Mount Saint Charles Academy, Matt Plante and Devin Rask join Kirk Luedeke on the latest episode of New England Hockey Journal’s “RinkWise” podcast.
A storied high school hockey program in Woonsocket, R.I., Mount announced a major reboot in 2018, moving away from a focus on RIIL competition to create four elite age-group teams that play in a full-season academy model.
Rask and Plante, both former coaches of Connecticut’s Selects Academy at South Kent, were subsequently hired to steer the program as it set out on its new venture.
Rask serves as head coach of the U16 team, while Plante oversees the U18 group. The latter is in its first season in the Prep Hockey Conference, a newly-formed league that features six of the top school-based independent hockey programs in North America.
Three years since transitioning into the new full-season model, Mount continues to be a hotbed for high-end talent and success.
In 2021, all four tournament-bound teams (18U, 16U, 15O and 14U) qualified for their respective national tournaments.
“A lot of families and players want to play more games,” Rask said of the increasingly popular full-season model, as opposed to the traditional routes of town high school and prep.
“They also want to have a great academic experience. That’s what we provide at Mount Saint Charles. You get the hockey piece with a 50-plus game, highly-competitive schedule without sacrificing the academic piece,” added Rask, a former player at Providence College.
“It’s fun. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a great setup for these kids.”
It takes a special type of individual to thrive in that system, Plante chimed in, one that puts the teams on the ice six (sometimes seven) days a week, along with schooling.
“Competitiveness is probably the No. 1 thing for me and for all of us on our coaching staff. You have to have kids that want to compete. It’s a grind,” the former Quinnipiac player said of what the duo looks for in prospective players.
“When you talk about what we do on the overview, it sounds great. But once you get into the day-to-day and you have been going for three-straight months and you hadn’t been home since late August when school started, it’s a grind. You got to have guys that are motivated, that want to compete, that have drive, that have passion, and guys that have mental toughness. Because it’s not easy.”
With so much noise in the outside world and players under a microscope from an early age, the program has adopted a mantra.
“Control the controllables,” Plante said. “You can’t be worrying about what’s going on around you, you just have to embrace your process.
“The guy across you might have a D-1 commitment and you’re sitting there wondering what am I not doing that he’s doing? You can’t look at it that way. Everybody’s process is different. That can be hard to explain to a 15-16-17-year-old kid that wants it so badly and is doing all of the things that he thinks he should be doing to improve and get there.”
That just shows, the PHC coach continued, how important mental toughness is for players who compete at that level.
“It really is a marathon, not a sprint,” Plante said. “The guys that have the passion, the competitiveness, the drive, the mental fortitude, those are the guys that you want to work with every day because you’re going to get better with those kids.”
For more from Matt Plante and Devin Rask on the Rhode Island Saint M’s hockey program at Mount Saint Charles Academy, their individual coaching and playing careers, and more, listen to the full podcast today.
RinkWise is brought to you by Paul Vincent Hockey, Laura Stamm International Power Skating, Sacred Heart University, University of Nebraska High School, and Bruce Haas’ “Great Game!: D-1 College Hockey: People, Places, Perspectives.”
(Previously on the podcast: Mark Divver, Paul Cannata, Jeff Cox, Jordan Harris, Bobby Farnham, Steve Jacobs/Paul Pearl, Kent Hughes, Mark Dennehy, Ben Barr, Troy Thibodeau, Swaggy P/Torrey Mitchell/Kevin Sneddon of Elev802, Paul Mara, Chris Collins)