Cherry Creek product, Aurora native Ranone wraps junior hockey career, heading home for college
After two seasons playing junior hockey, TJ Ranone is coming back to Colorado for the next step in his career.
Ranone, a 2000 birth year from Aurora spent 2019-21 with the USPHL’s Carolina Jr. Hurricanes and will attend and potentially play college hockey next season at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Looking back, Ranone said the memories out in Carolina are aplenty.
“I got to the Canes because my senior year with Cherry Creek, I started to do showcases,” said Ranone, a defenseman. “I had done them the year before and had offers to go play juniors my senior year and not play for Creek, but I decided to stay. So the following year when I graduated, I did the CCM Showcase and that is where (Carolina coach) Lincoln Flagg saw me and offered me to come play for them in North Carolina.
“I decided to go back because it is a top-tier organization playing in the best division in the USPHL. The staff is mainly what made me go back. My head coach Kevin St. Jacques and my assistant coach Brad Gaylord are some of the best coaches I have ever had in hockey.”
Ranone noted that having family in North Carolina made the transition from Colorado a bit easier, too.
“What made me decide on that team, because I had many teams that wanted me to come play for them my first year back in 2019, was the coaching staff,” Ranone said. “Before I even signed, I got contacted by Kevin and Lincoln, and they talked to me about my game and what they liked about it and how they could help me get to the next level. Our goals were also the same. My goal as an individual was that I wanted to get better and get to next level and win. They had the same attitude.”
The 2020-21 season was challenging across all sports, especially hockey, but Ranone will always take the positives from this past year.
“This year was a hard year, of course, for everyone in sports, not just hockey,” said Ranone. “The team started off the year hot, and we were buzzing out there, winning games and having fun. We kept that pace through most of the season. We had our ups and downs like every team does and we ended up going to nationals and losing in the semifinals. Overall, this team was the best hockey team I have ever played on and one of the most fun hockey teams I’ve ever played on. Loved every single guy on the team.”
Individually, Ranone called this season “pretty shaky.”
“I was hurt before the season even started, but I got healthy and was able to play in the first game of the season,” explained Ranone. “Throughout the season, I got hurt again and wasn’t able to play for a couple weeks and I kept getting injured, but that didn’t stop me. I grinded through it and tried to get healthy. Nearing the end of the season, I wasn’t healthy enough to still play Premier, but my coaches knowing how much I love playing the game and how much it hurts to not play hockey, the game I love, they asked me if I would play down on their Elite team.
“While playing down, I hurt my knee, but I still finished out the season and playoffs on it and we fell short in playoffs. But overall, my season was good, and the experience I had just being able to play with what is going on right now.”
Growing up, Ranone played for the Front Range Panthers and Denver Jr. Pioneers before making the Cherry Creek team his second year of Bantam hockey.
“I had lots of coaches throughout my career, and I could name all of them for something that they did for myself in playing hockey and myself as a person,” said Ranone. “Like my coaches this last year, Kevin and Brad taught me so much about playing hockey, being a hockey player and becoming a good person and a man that I want to be later on in life, but I think the all-time coach that has made the biggest impact on my career would have to be my ‘D’ coach at Cherry Creek, Brent Tollar. He helped me tremendously as a player. I did private lessons with him for four years and he was also my coach for two. He made the biggest impact not just on my game but on me as a person, how I carry myself on and off the ice, and the drive he put in me for pushing me to be the best I can be.
“Also Coach Mel (Jeff Mielnicki), the head coach of Cherry Creek, helped me a lot and excelling my game, giving me the opportunity to play for his team and for him as a coach. Mel gave me the opportunity to play for his team the very first year in Bantam. He brought me on later in the season because I didn’t have a team to play for that season. There on out, I played for him the rest of my high school days.”
Born and raised in Colorado, Ranone said he started playing hockey when he was five.
“What got me into hockey was my dad would get free Avalanche tickets and when we would go to the game, I aaw at the intermissions the little kids playing out on the ice and from there on, I asked if I could play,” said Ranone. “They started me out in roller hockey. And then from there on, I have been playing ever since. Hockey is something I will be playing for the rest of my life. I have played the game for more than half of my life and dedicated so much time and everything to the game and it gave it right back. I live, bleed and breathe hockey.”
Down the line, Ranone said he wants to coach hockey because “I just love the game and want to give back.”
Aside from hockey, Ranone wants to pursue aviation with his eyes on becoming a pilot.
— Matt Mackinder
(April 29, 2021)