Rampage’s legacy of captains based on coaching, consistency, character
The big picture always trumps any small market obstacles the Colorado Rampage might face.
As the 14-year-old club, based out of the Colorado Sports Center (CSC) in Monument, has matured, it has made long-term development its major point of emphasis.
“Our goal is to take groups of players and move them all the way through the process,” said Andrew Sherman, the Rampage’s 12U AAA and AA coach and owner of the CSC. “We’re ramping it up hard, and we have multiple elements to accomplish that, from Learn to Play and grow-the-game initiatives to Mites, rec league, Tier II and Tier I and junior. Our staff covers a lot.”
That coaching staff includes three recent additions – University of Denver hockey alum and former professional Luke Fulghum (Midget 16U AAA National and American), Miami University hockey alum and ex-pro Marc Boxer (15U AAA), and longtime goalie coach Clint Elberts (Midget, junior). Elberts is one of three goalie coaches, joining Matt Zaba and Riese Niehaus.
They join Al Pedersen (8U coach/coordinator), Pat Bingham (club president, hockey director and 18U AAA coach), Shawn Kurulak (13U and 14U AAA) and Joe Stanczyk (10U coordinator). Other coaches include Andy Newton, Kevin LaPointe, Joey Carroll, Dan Beaudette, Colin Martel and Kevin Jones, as well as strength and conditioning coaches Jon Eng and Lauren Colizza and power skating coach Kori Ade.
“To continue to provide that great experience, and being in a smaller market and drawing from a smaller pool of players, we can’t miss the mark,” Sherman said. “We’ve got to have a great person and teacher at every age group. That’s really been our goal and why we continue to add coaches of this caliber.
“More high-level youth programs have that top-to-bottom integration now.”
Niagara University junior Kevin Patterson benefited from the continuity of playing most of his youth hockey with the Rampage.
“I think it’s very important,” he said. “Being a native of Colorado Springs and having that high level of hockey right in my backyard is an enormous – and understated – benefit. People used to think that once you got to a certain level you had to get out of the area. That’s not true now.
“That continuity was important for a few reasons. One, I got to stay home, and two, to have that continuity in the weight room and on the ice. That made a huge difference for me.”
The program excels at connecting players across age groups, added Patterson, who attributed much of his success to the club’s organic mentoring.
“You’d see the older guys in the weight room, and I knew that was what I wanted to get to,” he said. “J.J. Crew was a guy I looked up to. Kevin Sunde didn’t have a ton of skill, but how hard he worked set the tone. Josh Holmstrom was a captain when I was a younger player. I really looked up to those guys, not only for their work ethic on the ice, but off. They would take time to help out younger players.”
Crew later played at Western Michigan University. Holmstrom played at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell before launching a pro career in 2014.
The Rampage also employs cutting-edge assessments to help players’ physical development.
“Not only do they bring in the best coaches, they have other tools to help you elevate your game,” Air Force captain Max Hartner said. “When I was there, they would give body composition tests to see areas where we needed to improve. We could focus our training more.”
Consistency is a Rampage hallmark, and Patterson’s peer group is Exhibit A (and C).
He wore an ‘A’ this season, as did Sean O’Rourke at Ferris State University. Grant Arnold was only the third two-time captain in 60-plus years of Denver hockey. Air Force coach Frank Serratore called Hartner one of the finest captains in school history in an interview with Colorado Rubber Magazine last fall. The group also included former Ohio State University forward and current pro Darik Angeli.
“These guys’ parents did incredible jobs with them,” Sherman said. “It was already in there. We were able to get it to come to the surface.”
Ryan Massa was the group’s goaltender for two years, and he isn’t surprised so many Rampage players hit such heights.
“It speaks to the program the Rampage has,” he said. “They work on developing not only hockey players but also responsible individuals who carry themselves in the community the same way they do on the ice.
“The core values were preached early and often. Andrew talked so much about character, not only as a player, but in life. Consistently getting those messages it was inevitable to start seeing tangible results in Division I college, pro hockey, the USHL.”
Added Hartner: “Andrew always pushed us to do the right things and do them well. It stuck with us. He was teaching us to be men.
“At the upper levels of the game, a lot of people think you just make the most skilled guys the captains, but that’s not the case. A captain has to be the guy who can manage the emotions of the room all the time. Grant and I have talked about that a lot – your responsibility runs a lot deeper.”
Recent evidence of that approach’s effectiveness is abundant.
Massa helped the University of Nebraska-Omaha reach the Frozen Four in 2015, then launched his pro career this past season. Arnold and the Pioneers went in 2016, having to defeat O’Rourke and Ferris State in the West Regional final. Hartner helped Air Force make a run at the Atlantic Hockey conference title.
Rather than being the exception, the emergence of leaders from the Rampage has become the rule.
Dartmouth College commit Cam Strong captained Topeka of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) and won a league leadership award after the season. Robert Morris University commit Sean Giles captained Lone Star (NAHL), Bo Hanson moved into a leadership role with Muskegon (USHL), as did Jack Suter in Sioux Falls (USHL).
The consistency of the message was supplemented by daily responsibilities, Patterson said.
“You had a responsibility to vacuum and make sure your personal space was clean,” he said. “You had water bottles to fill every day. This fell on everyone’s shoulders.
“If you noticed a guy was running late or had something to take care of, there were other guys who stepped up and got things done. Everyone had duties and then things to take care of in the locker room. It taught us numerous life lessons.”
Time management, particularly crucial for college hockey players, was a big one, Patterson added.
“I was fortunate I got to learn that early on,” Patterson said. “We’d play five games in a weekend and you had to learn how to plan accordingly and talk to your teachers and get your work done ahead of time. If you didn’t, your grades suffered and then you’re up late at night trying to correct that. Then your performance suffers.”
Accountability was another one.
“It speaks to the level of detail Andrew and his coaches preach,” Massa said. “If you can’t take care of your locker room, then how are you supposed to take care of things on the ice? It instilled a strong message of accountability to one another and the team as a whole.
“The end goal of Rampage hockey was to build that mentality and closeness while being as successful as can be. We were taught the game extremely well on and off the ice strictly because there was consistent reinforcement.”
Hartner photo/Team DMI
— Chris Bayee