Jim Terry, left, and Jake Stanford are playing hockey in the Northern Pacific Hockey League, which is a Junior A Tier III league.  Both players hope the competitive league will help them move on to college scholarships.

Jim Terry, left, and Jake Stanford are playing hockey in the Northern Pacific Hockey League, which is a Junior A Tier III league. Both players hope the competitive league will help them move on to college scholarships.

Ex-high school hockey players move up

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The reality of playing Junior A, Tier III hockey more than 750 miles from home hit Jake Stanford and Jim Terry much like the former Steamboat Springs Sailors used to hit their opposition on the ice.

Both knew it would be different making hockey their lives, with Stanford playing for the Bozeman, Mont., Icedogs and Terry playing for the Butte, Mont., Roughriders.

How different was what shocked them.

Stanford moved to Bozeman before his senior year to live with a host family he'd never met. He enrolled in a school with five times the number of students as Steamboat Springs High School.

And if that wasn't enough, the Sailors' leading scorer last year suffered his first significant injury while playing hockey, late in the third period of his first game with the Icedogs.

Thankfully the injury turned out to be a hyper-extended knee, costing Stanford only two games and a week.

For Terry, along with the move and a trade, the realization of the level of hockey came early on, in an incident that's rare in high school hockey.

Terry broke his nose in two places after getting in a fight with an opposing player earlier in the season.

But the nerve-raising experiences have had a result both former Sailors never expected.

Stanford and Terry are relishing the changes.

"I was definitely worried," Stanford said. "Living with a family, going to a new high school my senior year and leaving behind really good friends. It definitely was a transition I was dreading a lot. But it's turned out really well."

Well enough that Stanford is playing a wing spot on the Icedogs' top line.

Stanford is playing in the Northern Pacific Hockey League with Terry, a 2007 Steamboat Springs High School graduate. Both said the difference in the game - from Colorado high school competition to Junior A - is substantial.

"It's so much faster than high school," Terry said. "It's taking me since the beginning of September, and I'm still trying to get used to how fast and physical these players are."

While Bozeman coach Kevin Stone found Stanford at a Colorado prospect showcase, Terry attended a training camp for the Billings, Mont., Bulls. Terry originally made the team but was traded to Butte before the season.

Both young adults are making an impact.

Stanford has recorded a goal and an assist through seven games this year. Although Terry hasn't registered a point, Roughriders coach Chris Shadow said Terry's leadership on the ice can't be overlooked.

"Every time he hits the ice, he gets better," Shadow said. "We really like his work ethic. He's a bigger kid, and he's always got a positive attitude."

Both former Sailors hope to parlay their experience in junior hockey to the next level. With the age limits for junior hockey between 16 and 20 years old, both have at least two more years of eligibility.

The two former teammates still keep in touch, talking at least once a week. Both are looking forward to Nov. 10, when their teams square off.

Until then, both said they're just going to keep enjoying playing hockey at a level they've worked so hard to reach.

"I couldn't have any complaints," Terry said. "I worked the last three years in Steamboat to get here. Now that I've got here, I'm just trying to keep up."

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