Ruhenstroth teen finds happiness on the ice
We’ve all heard that when you do something you love, there’s no trouble finding the time needed to make it happen.
Ice hockey is that love for 15-year-old Ruhenstroth resident Angela Nelson.
“The camaraderie and physical aspect of the game make it fun,” Angela said. “First I played T-ball but I didn’t like it; so I started playing soccer. I signed up for hockey through the Douglas County Parks & Recreation Department while I was still on the soccer team after watching the U.S. women’s hockey team win the gold medal at the 1998 Olympic Games.”
Angela played soccer for five years; but when the games (hockey and soccer) started to overlap, her parents said she had to choose.
“I chose hockey,” Angela said, “because soccer is boring. I really like skating backwards and there is more hitting in our league even though it is supposed to be non-contact.”
As a defensive player, Angela gets plenty of time to skate backward.
Angela assures that when they are in full gear, “You don’t get hurt. The worst part is getting the wind knocked out of you.”
The padding is pretty rigid, which provides a lot of protection for the players.
She practices at the South Tahoe Ice Arena two nights a week and her mom drives her to San Jose every weekend to practice with her team, the San Jose Jr. Sharks.
“We practice on ice and on dry land,” Angela said. “The dry land exercises concentrate on working with sticks and improving our techniques and strength.”
She has only missed two weekends since the season began at the end of August and one of those weekends she was sick. A junior this year, Angela also puts in an average of four hours each night doing homework while maintaining a 4.2 grade point average. She will graduate next year at the age of 16 and has already begun the search for colleges through scholarships and academics programs, and of course they need to have a hockey team.
One of her goals is to be a foreign exchange student in college like her dad was. As a second year German language student, she is going to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland this summer with three other students and their teacher. Last summer she spent one week at The Elite Comprehensive Training Program at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, and this summer she will return there for two weeks where they concentrate on improving skills and knowledge of the sport for those interested in competing at the college level and above.
Angela began playing street hockey with Devyn Hotho, another SJJS team member from Douglas County, when Devyn was 5 and Angela was 6, first playing in the parking lot at Meneley Elementary School. After the South Tahoe Ice Arena opened in May 2002, she tried ice hockey and liked it.
Angela said, “I joined the High Sierra Wild (a hockey club team). It is a traveling co-ed team that allows for full checking (physical contact) between players.”
Parents Don and Diane Nelson became concerned as she got older because the boys got stronger and it got rougher.
“We were afraid she would get hurt,” they said.
So last August Angela joined the Sharks, a 16U-AAA team in the top tier of girls’ hockey.
“When we practice up at Tahoe, I still play against the boys that were on the High Sierra Wild,” said Angela. “They are the same boys that I started playing street hockey with and grew up with. They are like my brothers. During practice sessions in San Jose, we also play against the boys teams; but there is no checking allowed. In the tournaments, we only play other girls teams.”
While at the tournaments, they are able to attend some of the NHL games if time permits. As a souvenir, Angela gets pucks with the team name and logo on it. Last summer, she and her dad, Don, attended the Celebrity Golf Tournament in South Lake Tahoe and were able to meet her favorite player, Joe Sakic.
“He autographed one of the pucks I got at an Avalanche (his team) game,” Angela beamed.
“He is a heck of a nice guy,” Don added.
The team has earned a spot in the national championships this year which begins on March 28 in San Jose and continues for a week. There will be teams from 49 states (Hawaii doesn’t have a hockey team). The Sharks are coached by Tom Pederson, who played hockey at a college in Minnesota and professionally with the San Jose Sharks; Rod Romanchuk, who played hockey at a college in Wisconsin and almost made it to the Olympics; and Tim Carlson, who also coaches a U19 girls’ team. A local business, L. A. Thomas, Co., has offered to sponsor Angela since she joined the Sharks.
“If it weren’t for his generosity, I don’t know how we would be able to do it (pay the fees and travel expenses),” Diane said.
Angela mentioned Blake Peterson, another Ruhenstroth resident who plays ice hockey. He attends Northwood Academy prep school and lives in Lake Placid, N.Y., where he perfects his skills. She still remembers her excitement when the U.S. women’s hockey team won the gold medal at the 1998 Olympic Games, and has not ruled out making her own bid for the Olympics one day.
— To reach Gail Davis, e-mail RuhenstrothRamblings@yahoo.com or call 265-1947.