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Ice Mates trounce novice field

Saga Krantz's crew captures 14th U.S. title - first since 2003

The Ice Mates responded to coach Saga Krantz's challenge to reach the next level.
The Ice Mates responded to coach Saga Krantz's challenge to reach the next level. (Paul Harvath)

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By Mickey Brown, special to icenetwork.com
(02/22/2008) - Ice Mates head coach Saga Krantz took a calculated risk after the Eastern Synchronized Sectional Championships, and it paid off big time.

Her team won that competition by more than 15 points, but she didn't want it to get complacent.

"The girls did absolutely great at Easterns, but I felt they peaked there," Krantz said. "We're going for an international, so I felt I needed to challenge them."

So, Krantz changed more than half the team's program -- the entire final two minutes, to be exact -- with the hopes of pushing the Ice Mates to even greater heights.

She succeeded.

The Ice Mates (Hayden Recreation Centre) trounced the novice field Friday night at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, R.I., en route to their 14th U.S. title and their first since 2003. Evolution (formerly Team Elan) took the silver, its first top--three finish since it won the silver in 2000. Chicago Jazz (Chicago FSC) earned the bronze, and the Starlights (Skokie Valley SC) finished fourth.

"I'm honestly speechless," Krantz said. "This is something we've been working on for three years. Every year I felt these girls have been extremely good, but they haven't had the skate at nationals. Finally, they had the skate at nationals."

The skate could not have been possible were it not for a three--day trip the team took to Stowe, Vt., just two weeks ago. With the team's program this season being The Sound of Music, Krantz and her assistants, Dede Wilson and Ron Kravette, wanted the Ice Mates to really get into the music and their character, so she brought them to the place where the famed von Trapp family settled.

In all, the coaches changed six of the team's 10 elements after Easterns, and many of those changes were implemented while they were in Stowe.

"We brought them there for inspiration. It's an outdoor rink, it's gorgeous, in the mountains, in the winter," Wilson said. "It's a great atmosphere to learn something new."

The Ice Mates did a High School Musical program last season, but Krantz thought they could handle something more mature this year.

"There's something magical about these girls," Krantz said. "Their skating skills, their style of skating -- knee action, pointed toes -- they're very graceful."

Evolution (Detroit SC), which exuded a steely intensity throughout its program, skated to African tribal music. It scored a season-best 62.04 points for its performance.

"Their energy and passion were fabulous. They were totally on," coach Jennifer Desimone said. "Their faces, their movements, their arms -- everything was sharp and crisp. They put everything they had into it."

The Jazz were noticeably dejected after skating their Alexander program, during which, according to coach Lisa Darken, they "start off as snake charmers and become goddesses at the end." They didn't exhibit their usual energy, settling for bronze for the second year in a row.