Photo by Rena Laverty
It was a summer goaltending development camp at USA Hockey Arena in May that really set the tone for Noah Grannan’s Under-18 season.
“Seeing once again what it takes to be the best was something that I took away,” he recalled. “Those are the best goalies in the country. You want to learn from the best. Seeing what they do both on and off the ice.
“Guys like [former NTDP goalies] Spencer Knight [2017-19] and Drew DeRidder [2017-18] are in places that you want to go, especially Knight. It really gives you a road map of what you need to do.”
The 6-foot-2, 183-pound Grannan soaked in everything he could from the coaches and the participants. He then took it home with him to Germantown, Wisconsin, and worked to apply it to his summer training.
“I think I learned that you need to take advantage of every opportunity that you have, whether it’s a small skating drill off to the side or a scrimmage. You need to take every opportunity to get better,” explained Grannan.
He can already see where his game has grown the most from his first season with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.
“The way I read plays and my composure is really what I learned [from former coach Thomas Speer] and it has helped me to play at the higher levels,” said Grannan. “My skating has gotten better and my net play has improved.”
Grannan credits the drills in practice in helping to fuel his competitive spirit, including one particular drill the he says really helps in game situations.
“One of my favorite drills to do is the 1-2-3 low-play game that we do. For lack of a better term, it’s 3-on-3 with one of the guys on each team being the shooter at the top of the circle.
“For a goalie, it helps to work on your compete [level]. Shots are always coming. It combines everything that can go wrong in a game, all at once. It really helps you prepare for the worst.”
This year, Grannan is working with goalie coach, Kevin Reiter. They get to spend some time together, especially before practice to work on simple things. Grannan has found some of those things are helping to take him back to his roots.
“He’s a great resource,” said Grannan on Coach Reiter. “We have worked a lot on the fundamentals, especially the basic skating … You always do tactical drills, worry about this or that, or read this or read that, but we always start off with some basic skating, push, shuffle, slide. It helps build consistency for me, especially going into practice.”
Photo: Rena Laverty
That extra help is making a big difference, especially when it comes to the college games. Grannan said it was eye-opening at first, but once he settled down, it was just another game.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “It was an adjustment for sure, especially the first period of the Northern Michigan game. After the first, I went into the locker room, I was just amazed how fast they turn turnovers into offense. After the second period, I thought, ‘This is a lot of fun.’
“It was kind of like my first experience playing a USHL game. Whenever you take that next step, it’s really fun and you have to live in the moment and feel submerged in the experience. For me, playing college hockey was always my dream growing up. You are not on a college team but it’s fun to play against them.”
As the season has progressed, Grannan realizes just how important the college games are in his development. He understands that this will only help him throughout the season.
Photo: Rena Laverty
“It’s huge,” said Grannan. “You are not going to get better playing the same competition every time. The only way you are going to get better is to play against better competition and that is what we do. For us as a team, playing against those older teams and learning how to beat those older guys and those older teams will only help us come next April.”
There is one college game that is circled on Grannan’s calendar — a Jan. 1 contest against the University of Wisconsin at USA Hockey Arena. It will be an opportunity for him to face his future college team. It is something that he has already dreamed about.
“Madison [Wisconsin] has always felt like home, ever since I went there with my aunt when I was 8 years old,” he said. “Whenever we would go out for Badger hockey games, she would take us on a tour of the lakes. It’s only an hour from home so it is home in some ways. Growing up, there was never a doubt in my mind, if I could play [there], I would be there.”
Right now, Grannan and his U18 teammates are focused on their first international tournament — the Five Nations in Sweden. He knows it is going to take some simple things for the team to have success against the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland.
“We need to stick to our team identity, everything that Coach [Seth] Appert has been preaching to us the last 14 months,” he stated. “I personally think he has a great vision and I’m fully bought into whatever he is saying. I have seen the proof that when we do what he is telling us, it works. There is no doubt in my mind that if we can learn to play to that team identity consistently for 60 minutes as one unit, there is no one that we can’t beat.”
Wearing the USA jersey in international competition is a special feeling, but Grannan gets to wear it each and every day.
“In one word — [it means] everything,” Grannan said. “Growing up, it’s something that you think about that you want to play for the USA. It’s out of this world. When you finally get the chance to do it, it really hits you.
“I remember when I committed to the Badgers, Coach [Tony] Granato told me that you will never forget the first time and the last time you wear the jersey. He’s right, I will never forget that first time.”
And hopefully, Grannan will have plenty more opportunities after his NTDP playing days are over to wear the colors for Team USA.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.