Zach Solow grew up around hockey in a slightly different way than his father had.
Ken Solow’s Massachusetts roots led the Solow family, including son Zach, to become season ticket holders for the Florida Everblades, an ECHL team based in Naples.
Zach’s passion for the sport started there, ultimately taking him away from his family during his middle school days and sending him to a series of hockey hotbeds.
“My dad was asking me, ‘Are you sure you want to do this, this is probably the last year you’ll live at home,’” Zach said, recalling a conversation as an eighth grader, years before he was even old enough to drive. “It’s a huge decision to have to make, but I knew it would work out well."
“I just had to work real hard and good things would come my way.”
That has been the case for the Dubuque Fighting Saints right winger.
Solow, who played youth hockey in Naples, set out to other destinations to live with host families while continuing to develop in the sport. He stuck with hockey, building his game to the point where he is now committed to play NCAA Division I hockey for Northeastern University next fall. That will put him close to his father’s friends and extended family in Massachusetts.
With extended stays in St. Louis, Janesville and Dubuque, Solow has climbed the hockey ranks on a journey that has taken him from Florida to western Missouri to southern Wisconsin to eastern Iowa so far.
Solow played for the U-16 St. Louis Blues AAA team in the Tier I Elite League before making his way to the North American Hockey League and, now, the United States Hockey League.
“I went to three hockey towns; towns that really love and enjoy hockey,” Solow said. “The only difference is the setting. St. Louis is a big city and a had a 35-40-minute drive to the rink.”
The time spent getting back and forth to the rink has been minimal in the last two stops. Solow said he was surrounded by a community in St. Louis and Dubuque, interacting with the teams’ supporters, whereas in Janesville teammates primarily provided support for each other.
Before he transitions from juniors to college, Solow is leaving his mark on the United States Hockey League, the top junior league in the country.
Solow has scored in 20 straight games, one short of the USHL record for the longest point streak in the league’s USA Hockey Tier 1 era. The steady approach has allowed him to post six goals and pile up 26 assists during the streak.
The league scoring and assists leader is the USHL’s most recent Forward of the Week, and last month was part of the gold medal effort by Team USA at the World Junior A Challenge.
It was the World Junior A Challenge — and the Fighting Saints’ need to fill out the roster during that time — that originally brought Solow to the team from the NAHL during the 2015-16 season. He never went back, finding a place with last year’s Clark Cup finalists and this season’s second-place team in the Eastern Conference.
“I think he’s a great player,” Dubuque head coach Jason Lammers said. “I think he’s got elite hockey sense.
“He’s got a really good feel for the game. He’s got the ability to make plays because of the God-given talents that he has, but I think he also has played with some really good players. It’s a combination of his abilities and the group around him.”
Solow plays the right wing on a line that includes left wing Colin Theisen and center Cole Guttman, two of the league’s top 10 goal scorers.
“It’s just been good hard work from my linemates and myself,” Solow said in explaining the streak. “We’re always trying to do extra stuff after practice, trying to build up good chemistry.
“Teams have tried to shut us down and they’ve done real good jobs and made it real difficult on us, but we just find a way to work a little extra hard to keep the puck in the zone a little bit longer and eventually pop one in.”
Solow has never had a streak like this before and he acknowledges it’s “in the back of my mind.” He’s trying to make sure, however, that it remains in the proper perspective.
“We could win 5-nothing and the streak could be over, but those two points could be huge in getting us into a playoff spot,” he said. “So, I’m not too concerned about it, but I think is really cool that something small turned into something this big.
“I’m just going to ride the wave until it’s over.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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