Frank Vatrano, Local stars partner with Pics and AP Academy for First Step Hockey School

Courtesy: Maroon

WEST SPRINGFIELD - Anthony Sarno has a catchphrase: train local. The Springfield native feels strongly that hockey players from Western Massachusetts shouldn't have to travel to Boston or Connecticut to hone their skills. With some help from his family and friends, he's put that belief into action.

East Longmeadow native and Boston Bruin Frank Vatrano is the most recognizable name coaching at this week's First Step Hockey School, hosted at the Olympia Ice Center.

But players from ages 6-13 are also working with Longmeadow's Barry Almeida, who played at Boston College; UMass product and Springfield native TJ Syner; AIC graduate and Springfield native Austin Orszulak; and Longmeadow's Charlie Kelleher, who is committed to the University of New Hampshire. Almeida, Syner and Orszulak are playing professionally in the ECHL as well.

"Basically, we're just trying to give back," Sarno said. "All of us had some kind of success ... but the community here is so tight-knit, and it's important to us, whether it's the guys who are there or the guys who are up and coming, they kind of get to see what it's like to train."

A day at the camp is split between on-ice work and off-ice training. Sarno, who coaches the 16U Springfield Pics, partnered with the Advanced Performance Academy, which has locations in Palmer and East Longmeadow, to get AP's certified trainers to run the off-ice workouts. After skating inside the Olympia, players take to the parking lot to work through agility ladders and other drills.