Colorado Rubber

Colorado’s and Utah’s Authoritative Voice of Ice and Inline Hockey

Jump to USPHL’s Cougars proving to be best bet for Fort Collins’ Shibalov on latest stop in hockey journey

 

Mark Shibalov was born in Kansas, started playing hockey in Alaska and Canada, and started to see his game come to fruition once he moved to Fort Collins.

This season, Shibalov is seeing his game take another turn for the better with the USPHL’s Chicago Cougars.

“After I finished my junior season (in 2022-23) at Resurrection Christian, I reached out to my former coach Chance Creger, who I played 16U AA for at Hyland Hills,” said Shibalov. “He recommended me to the team, and following a showcase event at which the Cougars staff was present, I was offered a contract.

“I wanted to play in Chicago for a few different reasons. I knew their coach Josh Dallmann had a long record of advancing players to Tier II and NCAA Division III hockey. The Cougars are also a competitive and well-run team year after year, and the stability of knowing I would have a good team was attractive. Having the chance to play for both the Premier and Elite teams also appealed to me because it meant I would play lots of games this year and get to develop as both a top player on Elite and a bottom-six player on Premier.”

Living away from home has also been a great experience for Shibalov, who said it’s been “fun overall.”

“I currently live in a billet home with my Elite teammate Josh Roman, who’s from Los Angeles,” Shibalov said. “Billeting was a new experience, but I enjoy helping my billet family with chores and other family activities. We play at the Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville (moving from Fifth Third Arena in downtown Chicago). The move has helped us reach more people in the Chicago area and do more community work, such as volunteering to build a playground and an outdoor rink in the area.”

Growing up, Shibalov’s hockey journey took him several places.

“I started playing hockey at the age of four in Soldotna, Alaska,” said Shibalov. “Doctors were worried about my gross motor skills, and hockey was the best fit for me to physically develop. After my first season in Soldotna, the family moved to Leduc, Alberta, Canada, and in true Canadian spirit, I fell in love with the game. Naturally, being up north, I didn’t know much about the Avalanche unless they were playing locally against the Oilers or Flames. Having moved all over, I wouldn’t say I have a true hometown, but the closest thing is Fort Collins. Of course, to stand out a little more on roster sheets, I always say my birthplace of Liberal, Kansas.

“I moved to Fort Collins in 2019 and played both my Bantam seasons for NCYH. After graduating 14U, I played one season for the Hyland Hills 16U AA team and the following year for Resurrection Christian’s Varsity and CPHL Tier I team. The coach who had the greatest positive impact on me is by far Chance Creger at Hyland Hills. Coach Creger taught me how to really see the game, different systems and plays, while also exposing me to a high skill and pace level of hockey. He changed the way I saw the hockey world and helped shape my hockey goals.”

Shibalov noted that playing hockey in Colorado provided some of his best memories on the ice.

“I love living in Colorado. Out of all the places I’ve lived, I truly consider Colorado my home,” Shibalov said. “My best hockey memory here would be with Hyland Hills, playing in the finals of the Littleton Thanksgiving tournament against the Littleton 15U AA team and scoring two goals in front of a packed house to help win the championship. A close second would be the same year winning the Silver Stick Regional tournament in a shootout, also against Littleton 15U AA.”

Looking ahead, Shibalov has attainable plans, both on and off the ice.

“My short-term goal in hockey is to establish myself as a Premier player and finish the season there to set myself up for my next year of junior,” he said. “Long term, my goal is to play Tier II junior hockey and then play collegiately at the NCAA D-III or ACHA D-I level. Academically, I am finishing my senior year of high school this year, and then looking to study Fishery Biology and Fish and Wildlife Management.”

Photo/Kole Wendt

— Matt Mackinder

(November 24, 2023)

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