Three High School Ice Dawgs Players Named To U18 Bozeman Team
When the Valley Event Center was constructed years ago, the main reason behind it was to give kids with the passion to play hockey a legitimate place to play. That idea continues to pay dividends as three of Glasgow's own, Harley Eliason, Ryan Padden and Connor Simensen, were selected to play on the Bozeman Ice Dogs U18 Tier II team this year.
Eliason, Glasgow's brick wall of a goaltender that deflects opponents shots on goal in the same manner that one would swat flies, said he was excited upon hearing the news because of the fact that all the guys that would give him trouble on other teams are now on his team.
The experience is even more meaningful to Eliason with fellow Ice Dawgs along the ride with him.
"It's cool that [Connor and Ryan] are on the team too, because we get to experience this together," said Eliason with smile on his face.
The amount of practice time the Bozeman U18 squad has seen so far has been virtually non-existent. Reagardless, it hasn't stopped the team from coming together and competing at a level that left Ice Dawgs head coach Mike Eliason in awe when he saw the team on the ice for the first time.
"These guys had not practiced together before and when they hit the ice, the didn't have to be told what to do," said Eliason. "It was like they already knew what their roles were. It was impressive."
Teammate Ryan Padden shared the same sentiments when looking back at the first tournament the Bozeman squad competed in at Missoula.
"We have a great group of guys," Padden said. I think once we're able to get some practice in, we'll improve even more and do really well."
It's tough to imagine how much better Padden expects the team to get with practice considering that the Bozeman U18 Tier II squad went an impressive 6-1 during the three day tournament.
Connor Simensen said that he was excited to take the ice for the Bozeman U18 Tier II squad and that the style of play surprised him at first, but he adjusted quickly.
"It's a lot different, it's faster and harder hitting," Simensen said. "It's probably the best team I've played on. We work really well together."
Even with the work that Simensen has put in on the ice over the years, he pointed out that it wasn't all of his doing to get to where he's at.
"I couldn't have done it without this facility here and all of the people that put in the volunteer work to make this facility a reality," Simensen said.
For the Glasgow program as a whole, having kids that the community has watched grow before them both as young men and hockey players will always be a badge of pride.
"It says something about our program and how far we've come," said Ice Dawgs head coach Mike Eliason. "Without the facility we have here, these guys wouldn't have progressed the way they have."
Eliason takes a brief pause as he sits at a table in the lobby of the Valley Event Center before finishing his thought.
"It's not just a success story for these players," Eliason said. "But for the community as well."
Eliason is also the first to point out that these three guys aren't the only deserving Ice Dawgs of playing on the Bozeman team.
"I think these three are our leaders," said Eliason. "It's not to slight the other guys because there are others on here deserving of a spot, but for one reason or another things just didn't work out."
The only thing that's better for a coach to see his players selected to a team of this magnitude, is when one of the players happens to also be his son.
Mike said that throughout this whole experience his son Harley has not regressed in how he approaches a game or practice.
"I think he's just kind of an old fashioned guy," Eliason said. "He has respect for the people who came before him, the game of hockey and generally I think he's pretty mindful of who's done the work to get him here."
Padden didn't notice a change in Harley's approach either after they were named to the team.
"He gets pretty serious in the locker room," Padden said of Harley's mindset before games. "He knows how to get the guys going. He's a lot of fun in practice."
On Jan. 31, the Bozeman squad will play in the Jackson Hole Tournament in Jackson Hole, WY. The team will have a few more tournaments between Jackson Hole and the end of the season which culminates with a tournament in Wayne, NJ composed of teams from across the nation.
That tournament isn't until April, but none of the three players were eager to admit that it's not far from their minds.
"It makes me want to work harder to improve more so we can be at the top when we play in New Jersey," said Harley.
Once this journey wraps up for him, Harley says that hockey will still be a main part of his life. He's looking at options both at the junior hockey level and even some DIII college programs.
"It's there [the decision on what to do next]," said Harley. "It's in the back of my mind. I'm just searching for places to go."