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Inline hockey is growing by leaps and bounds

by Donnie Nelson

Inline hockey is growing by leaps and bounds at the youth and high school level. The problems for league directors, coaches and players in the area are, however, that the sport is still not recognized by the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association and that there are very few places to play.

It’s mind boggling to think just how popular the sport would be if those two problems were solved.

Douglas had 38 kids try out earlier this summer for its two high school club teams, the biggest turnout of any of the 12 inline hockey programs in the north. The youth program, which uses a ball instead of a puck and is played in a makeshift arena in the parking lot of a local middle school, has more than 75 players participating in its winter league.

Don’t be mistaken, the sport is more popular than any other club sport at the high school level.

The Nevada High School Hockey Association is 40 programs strong state-wide and a prototype for other organizations across the country. The Northern League plays a 12-game schedule out of which the top four teams advance to a state tournament. Yes, there is a state tournament.

This year, four of the 28 teams from the south will come north to the newly built High Sierra Hockey House in Reno over the weekend of March 28 and 29 to battle it out for an unofficial state title.

How the Douglas program is so big and so competitive is unbelievable considering it doesn’t have a place to call home. They’ve been looking into building a facility at Stodick Park and have, reportedly, even raised enough funds and materials to do so. But, it hasn’t received the OK to begin construction.

The Douglas teams practice just once a week (Sunday evenings no less) on a real facility, the Pony Express Pavilion at Mills Park in Carson City. They play games on Saturdays at Mills Park or in Reno.

Bishop is the only other program in the north with a competition facility. Elko, which joined the league this year on exhibition status, has an uncovered outdoor facility but still makes the long drive west each week to play. Now, that’s dedication.

The excitement of inline hockey has taken Elko and Reno by storm. Both city governments are looking into building a new facility (Reno is looking into building a permanent structure at Mira Loma Park) later this year. Will a new facility ever be built in Douglas County? Who knows.

There is certainly enough participation and interest to support the facility. And, because Carson City’s programs are too numerous to give anybody enough practice time at their winter-only set up, those people would probably make their way south both during the winter and summer seasons.

Jim Maxey is the director of the NHSHA, which is in no way, shape or form associated with the NIAA. The NHSHA does, however, operate under the national RHIA, so the future of the sport seems to be on solid ground.

Currently, the programs pay for their own rink and travel time, referees and equipment.

Varsity Tigers blank Reno

They’re no secret to the rest of the league now. The Tigers are one of the best teams in the north.

Brian Dries scored two unassisted goals and Jared Van Bruggen added one goal as Douglas beat the host Reno Huskies, 3-0 on Saturday.

Douglas controlled both ends of the rink, outshooting Reno 34-20.

Dries opened the scoring with a goal from the point with 5:25 left in the first period.

The Tigers had a few chances to extend their lead in the second period. The best chance came from Mike Grimes with 7:00 left. He picked off a pass at center and went one-on-one with Andy Myers, but his shot was smothered in front of the net by the Reno goalie.

The Tigers had a handful of even better scoring opportunities in the third period.

Douglas went on a two-minute power play early in the period and got off three quality shots on goal.

Dries had the best chance. He took the puck on the boards behind the net and wrapped around the back of the goal from left-to-right. However, Myers read Dries’ nifty move perfectly and got back in position on the post to stop the poke shot.

Later, a Douglas player intercepted a cross-rink pass at the center line and went one-on-one on Myers. But, again, the Reno goalie was up to the challenge.

Reno had two power plays in the final 4:41 of the second period, but the Douglas defense held solid and didn’t let the Huskies set up much of an attack.

If it wasn’t for Myers’ stellar play, then the Tigers would have blown the game open in the fourth.

Myers stopped another one-on-one, this time by Grimes, three minutes into the fourth. He also made several big glove saves and blocks during a Douglas power play in the middle of the period.

Douglas did, however, manage to get two of its 12 fourth-period shots by Myers. Dries put a shot from the left wing into the top right corner of the goal just before the power play, and Van Bruggen put back a rebound late in the period.

Van Bruggen’s goal came off a wonderful follow-up effort. He moved patiently to the left in front of the net, but his initial backhanded shot was turned away by Myers’ stick. Van Bruggen stayed with the play and deposited the second-chance shot into the top right corner of the net.

Douglas appears to be solid at every position.

Dave Boyer made three saves and blocked away two free pucks in goal in the first half, and Shawn Maxey made four saves in the second half. Several other defensemen, including Mario Quiroga, also made big plays to help preserve the shutout. Douglas also had a handful of stars on the offensive end, including Rocky Radka, who kept the Reno defenders on the move all game.

Myers was forced to make 18 saves and at least three other plays on free pucks in front of the net. Douglas had seven potentially dangerous crosses in front of the net while Reno only had four. Reno won the most face offs, 7-5.

Douglas is coached by Hector Quiroga, who in his first year after spending one year as the junior varsity coach and one year as the varsity assistant under Maxey, and assisted by Jeremy Dries. The Tigers, who are 4-2 and battling for third place, next face McQueen at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 21 in Carson City.

J.V. team skates to draw

The future looks bright for the Douglas inline hockey program.

Kalaman and Shupe scored two goals each, and Kaufman and Russell had one assist each as the Douglas junior varsity team salvaged a 4-4 tie with the talented Huskies.

Testri scored in the middle of the first period to give Reno a 1-0 lead.

Riekl scored with 9:44 left in the second period to give the Huskies a 2-0 lead. The Tigers responded, however, as Kalaman scored with 5:01 left in the second period and Shupe tied the game at the buzzer.

The third period went back and forth.

Kalaman scored off a pass from Russell with 9:26 left to give Douglas its first lead of the game. Reno tied it with 6:43 left, but Shupe’s goal with 1:20 left gave Douglas the lead right back. Reno tied the game with four seconds left.

The teams went scoreless in the fourth period. Douglas outshot Reno 38-28.

The team is coached by Roger Van Alyne and assisted by Bob Martin.

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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