Development, momentum on Lady RoughRiders’ side
For the Rocky Mountain Lady RoughRiders, less means more.
As the program transitions into its third year of operation, the 2015-16 campaign will be the first without a 19U team.
Not to worry, according to Lady RoughRiders director of hockey operations Marcus Scarafoni.
“We’re growing the right way and that’s what we are most proud of,” said Scarafoni. “We’re pushing forward with our younger teams and those in turn will help field older teams down the road here. We don’t have a 19U team this year, but that’s perfectly fine. The majority of the kids from last year’s team aged out and what we’re seeing now is a resurgence in our younger teams.”
Molly Blaine, who coached the 19U AA team in 2014-15, is now working with the younger Lady RoughRiders players with USA Hockey’s American Development Model.
For the current season, the Lady RoughRiders boast two new 10U and 14U rec teams, in addition to a pair of 14U and 16U squads at the AA level. Throw in a “Learn To Play” program and rec-level teams at 8U and 12U and it’s clear the registration numbers have increased since 2014-15, “a credit to our organization doing things the right way,” said Scarafoni.
“With our ‘Grow The Game’ program and ‘Try Hockey For Free’ events, those start to get the kids interested and everyone involved with those programs does a great job,” Scarafoni said. “As a program overall, you can never be satisfied – you always want to keep getting better. We feel that we are better than we were last year, but we want to keep that trend moving up.”
Based primarily at three rinks – Westminster’s Ice Centre at the Promenade, Boulder Valley Ice at Superior and the Apex Center in Arvada – exposure is something Scarafoni said he wants to keep confined to the immediate area for the time being.
“One of the biggest things I’ve seen since we started this was that with girls teams, you have to have that chemistry, that camaraderie – that’s so huge with girls,” said Scarafoni. “Once word gets out that we have a tightly-knit organization with girls from these areas where everyone has either played with one another or played against one another at some point, coming here becomes a very attractive option. I believe we are comparable in player fees to other programs in the state, but we offer just as much, if not more, on the hockey side.”
Scarafoni pointed out that the AA teams will play games in the Colorado Competitive Youth Hockey League this season and the 14U A squad has joined the Mountain States Girls Hockey League, while the 10U and 12U AA teams are now playing in the Denver Women’s Hockey League.
“This is a new step for all of us,” said Scarafoni. “We are definitely taking major strides.”
Of course, with growth of a program comes the need for more ice time. Right now, Scarafoni said that “there just isn’t enough ice to go around.”
“We’re always looking at ways to secure more ice for this season,” said Scarafoni. “Boulder Valley is doing all it can to provide the ice and we’ll certainly take advantage of that. The NoCo Ice Center in Fort Collins is also willing to work with us, so really, this is a good problem to have. Growth is a good thing, for sure.”
Last year, the Lady RoughRiders sent their 14U AA and 16U AA teams to their respective USA Hockey National Tournaments, but that isn’t something Scarafoni likes to harp on.
“Every year is different and we know those teams were special, but last year was last year,” Scarafoni said. “Is it a feather in our cap? Sure. Does it help when we recruit? Of course. This year is a new year with new team dynamics and new teammates. Can our teams get back to nationals? It’s certainly not unattainable. These girls know what hard work can get you and they all have the right mindset to extend their seasons next spring.”
— Matt Mackinder