Steamboat Springs The first week in May, seven local hockey players will head to the Rocky Mountain District camp in Westminster with dreams of making it to the national level -- someday.
"These are some of the best kids in the state in their age group," local coach Jeff Ruff said. "This is a chance for them to get a lot of exposure."
The local players who will head to the district camp all attended the annual evaluations at the Big Bear Arena in Aurora March 31 through April 2. They were among 20 players from Steamboat to take part in the three days of evaluations.
"It's like a really long tryout," local hockey player Ryan Dingle explained.
Dingle has advanced to the district camp three times before. Last year he made the Festival Team, which is just one level below the national level.
Ruff said the players skated twice a day, and were run through drills and scrimmages in an effort to identity the best players in the state.
Coaches from USA Hockey as well as top-level college coaches from Denver University, the University of Colorado and Colorado State University watched the action on the ice and identified the players who will move onto the next level.
"Each time you move up a level, it gets about five times harder," Dingle said.
As players move up, though, they have a chance to learn more advanced skills from other players at the camp, he added.
"You definitely learn some new moves," Dingle said.
The original group, which included about 80 players in each age group, was reduced to the top 25 players in each age class.
Steamboat goalkeeper Tim Higbee, defensemen Chris Ruff and Daniel Collocia, and forwards Matt LeGrice and John Lalive, all made the cut in the 1986-birthdate class.
Forward Dingle was selected in the 1984-birthdate group and Liz Masterson was named to the 1982-83 group in the girls' division.
All of the players will move onto another camp for players from several states. From there, the players are hoping to make the next cut. Depending on the players' age, they can keep advancing along the road to the national team.
Dingle will be limited to the Festival Team again this year, but will be old enough to move onto the national team the following year.
The Festival Team plays a tournament against other regional teams in St. Cloud, Minn., later this year. Dingle is hoping to be on that team.
--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org