Steamboat Springs Ryan Cagnoni knows the percentages.
Outside of high school hockey in Minnesota, the best way to earn a college scholarship — specifically at the Division I level — is to play AAA hockey.
So Cagnoni, 15, worked and plied his trade for much of the school year and all summer, before finally making the U15 Colorado Thunderbirds, one of country’s pre-eminent AAA clubs.
“Playing with these teams I’ll have the opportunity to travel to Pittsburgh, Chicago, Dallas and Des Moines,” said Cagnoni, who will be a sophomore. “Thanksgiving we’re even talking with the team and might go to Russia. Playing with all these teams, there is always college and junior scouts watching.”
Cagnoni, whose ultimate goal is to play Division I hockey, played for the Bantam A team that won a state championship last season and for the Steamboat Springs High School team.
Before that, however, he’d tried out for another select AAA team and didn’t make it. He used the snub as inspiration.
“It got me motivated this year because I knew I wanted to continue with hockey,” he said. “But, yeah, I was pretty upset.”
In addition to the Bantam A team and the high school team, Cagnoni continued his work this summer.
He skated four times a week, twice in Denver, and worked out three times a week.
“His work ethic made him stand out,” said Thunderbirds coach John Seymour, who helped build the Steamboat Youth Hockey programs in the early 1990s. “We told him there were some things he needed to do. He was able to try to do those things. He doesn’t let his size affect him. He’s not afraid of physical play.”
Cagnoni will head to Denver on Aug. 24 to begin training with the Thunderbirds. He also plans to attend high school at Ralston Valley.
Seymour said he envisions Cagnoni as an energy guy he’ll pair with a goal scorer.
“I expect a lot of hitting,” Seymour said about the centerman. “I expect a lot of competing.”
The Thunderbirds U15 team serves as a developmental team for the U16 team, which won a national championship last season. The U15 team will play more than 60 games against 16-year-old teams this year.
— To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org