NEW CANAAN—When the New Canaan boys hockey team takes the ice this winter, it will be with a new coach at the helm.

But really, the position is a change in title only for Clark Jones.

“I’ve been doing developmental stuff with New Canaan High School for the last two years in the offseason,” said Jones, the Hockey Director for the Darien Ice Rink. “I coached a lot of them last year in the fall; I’m actually going to coach them theoretically less now that I’m taking the high school job.”

Jones takes over for Pat Gore, who stepped down after three seasons at the helm of the program.

Although Jones will be a new face behind the bench for the Rams, the team has the luxury of avoiding any feeling-out period.

“I’ve been coaching them for a while, a lot of them I’ve coached since they were seven,” Jones said. “The kids that are seniors, they are the first group that I coached at the Winter Club, so I’ve been coaching them one way or another for a long time. Nothing’s really changing except the high school uniform—which is big, but we’ve been working with them for a while so it’s a natural fit in that regard.”

Jones knows how rare that built-in rapport is, and hopes it can act as a catalyst as he transitions to his new role.

“I think that’s why it was a good fit, “Jones said. “I know the families and I know the kids; we’ve got a good feel for each other and I think that’s important, at high school, to be able to communicate well with them.”

Jones, along with Chris Gragnano, specialize in refining the technical aspect of the game and plan to utilize that specialty from the ground up in implementing their blueprint for success.

“More than anything else, we want to up the ante across the board as far as skill development,” Jones said. “That’s why Chris and I this summer started to create something pretty exciting here and we want that to follow through to the high school. We want all the high school kids to stay and play for the high school, so we’re going to try to build something exciting and it’s been a good start here.”

Last season, the Rams had their best year under Gore—reaching the FCIAC finals and the Division I semis, but Jones won’t get to reap the benefits of that team as most of the skaters that played meaningful minutes graduated this past June.

“The team lost 12 or 13 players, it’s going to be a whole new look,” Jones said. “But they’ve been working in the offseason and they’ll continue to work throughout the fall with the midget program. I think, more than anything else, we want to build up a good process here for everybody so that it can be sustainable.” @reportedbytheap