The U.S. National Under-18 Team, part of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, worked with three local squirt teams last Friday at World Arena Ice Hall on its recent visit to Colorado Springs to play NCAA Division I Colorado College.
Nine players were on the ice with a pair of squirt teams putting them through an American Development Model practice session, while the rest of the group had a question and answer session with parents and kids who had the next practice session. One of the most popular members of Team USA was Jared Fiegl of Parker, Colo., a suburb of Denver.
“I used to play with the Arapahoe Warriors and we’d come down here to play the Jr. Tigers, so it’s really cool to come back here and walk through the lobby where I used to meet my parents after games,” said Fiegl. “Tonight it was fun to talk to these kids and their parents. They asked me about how I got to where I am, so I told them to keep working and have fun with it. Don’t take it too seriously, but know what you need to do. If you love it, you’ll get there.”
Meanwhile, Dylan Larkin was busy at work on the ice, walking his group of players through passing, stickhandling and shooting drills. The Waterford, Mich., native relished the opportunity to work with young players and even made a new fan.
“I enjoyed just seeing the kids smile and have fun,” said Larkin. “It brings you back to being a kid and learning the game. The kids were staring up at us and really listened. They mimicked us pretty closely. I was teaching them how to fake one way and then get the puck out wide away from your body to protect it. At the end, one of the kids told me she was going to the CC game tomorrow and would make a sign for me, which was really cool.”
The CSAHA players who had the chance to skate with Team USA were definitely motivated by their special guests. Their everyday coaches noticed extra effort and attention to detail.
“It was fun,” stated nine-year-old goaltender Colton Engelke. “I made a bunch of saves on them. One of the Team USA goaltenders came over and told me about where he’s from and he gave me some tips. I liked learning from them.”
“I got to race one of them and I won,” boasted nine-year-old Easton Portner. “They were really good skaters and could shoot really hard. I can lift the puck over the net but not like them. I’m going to the game tomorrow night, so I’m going to root for Team USA now.”
The night ended with Team USA autographing posters, taking pictures and high-fiving their new smiling fans. The youngsters also left an impression of their own on Team USA.
“The talent has really grown out here,” remarked Fiegl, who is verbally committed to attend the University of Denver next fall. “I see a lot more development among Colorado hockey players since I’ve been playing.”