For three Carson Country hockey players, the opening of a new ice rink in South Lake Tahoe couldn't have come at a better time.
Jonathan Singer and Matthew Scherer of Carson and Angela Nelson of Gardnerville have joined the newly formed Sierra Hawks 10-and-under traveling hockey team coached by Kelsey Zeek. The team will train at the new state of the art facility on the south shore of Lake Tahoe.
"We felt it was important to get a jump on preparing a traveling team that will be able to represent the fantastic new ice arena," Zeek said. "Many local players will be making the transition from inline hockey to ice hockey. We believe that by beginning to practice and compete together as a team while our players grow comfortable on ice we will be able to strong representatives of the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena and Northern Nevada at future ice hockey tournaments throughout the region."
The Sierra Ice Hawks is a co-ed team made up of players from Reno, Sparks and South Lake Tahoe, along with the three Carson Country players. They've entered three inline hockey tournaments this year. Their next one is this weekend in Sonora, Calif. Despite being together for only a few months, the Ice Hawks finished third in two recent tournaments against teams that have been together for several years.
Zeek thinks their improvement will only skyrocket once school is out because then the team can consistently get more ice time at the new arena for practice, which will only accelerate the transition from inline hockey to ice hockey.
"It's going to be a bit of a change," Zeek said. "The thing that is the biggest difference (between inline and ice skates) is the edge. But they all understand the game and that's the main thing. Right now since school is still going on, we aren't able to practice as much. But once that gets over in the next couple of weeks, we'll start playing a lot more."
Zeek eventually wants the team to compete in the Northern California League, which would put them up against top competition against Bay area teams. But unless Zeek can put together three or more teams from the same club, it won't happen. But he's confident it will after this year.
Until then, Chris Perry, the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena director, told Zeek that he could get the Ice Hawks to play an exhibition schedule. That would still give the Ice Hawks a chance to play quality teams and get them into competitive tournaments until they are affiliated with the Nor-Cal League.
"I think once the kids get used to one another we can be a very good team," Zeek said. "If we can get into that Nor Cal league, it will help a lot."
Zeek eventually wants the Sierra Ice Hawks to play in tournaments all over North America. He believes the talent is there and with the opening of the ice rink, it should all come together. Zeek is still looking for a half dozen more players to complete his roster. He will offer tryouts to intermediate level and above players under 10. For more information, please contact him at (530) 577-7563 or (530) 542-0744.