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CEDAR RAPIDS ‒ A day later, and Frank Howell still can’t believe it. One of his former students at Cedar Rapids Washington High School is an actual hockey hero.
The rookie NHLer played two seasons of junior hockey here for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders from 2014 to 2016. In the first of those two seasons, he attended classes as a senior at Wash.
The first Warrior grad who’s a Stanley Cup champ, let alone a Stanley Cup hero.
“This is as much vicarious enjoyment as I have ever had in watching anything I have ever seen in sports in my entire life. I am still just blown away by it all,” Howell said.
Howell left Washington to take the head women’s basketball coaching job at Graceland University and is now a teacher and girls’ basketball coach at Central Decatur High School. He fondly remembers all the former RoughRiders who were in his government class, especially Colton.
“I remember the first time I met him,” Howell said. “Ross came into my classroom about three days before classes started and introduced himself. I had never really had anyone do that before, and right away he made a positive impression on me … He was always such a class act, and I am overjoyed that he has been able to get into the NHL, let alone get the game-winning goal in one of the most prestigious sporting events in the entire world.”
Colton’s late second-period goal was a tap in of a perfect feed from the faceoff dot to the front of the net from teammate David Savard. The fourth-line center scored nine goals in 30 regular-season games for Tampa Bay and had four in 23 playoff games, with number four the biggest.
“Happy, excited, proud,” said RoughRiders Coach/General Manager Mark Carlson. “Especially the way the game was going, it was just very, very exciting to see him score.”
The RoughRiders drafted Colton in the 2014 United States Hockey League Draft in the middle rounds because they weren’t sure he wanted to leave his prep school in Connecticut. Carlson met with his family at their home in New Jersey and assured his parents their son would be well taken care of on and off the ice.
Colton had 18 goals in 58 games in the 2014-15 USHL season, then set the RoughRiders club record for most goals in a season with 35 in 2015-16. That got him drafted in the fourth round by Tampa Bay.
After two years at the University of Vermont, Colton signed a professional contract, spending the first two years of his pro career in the American Hockey League for Tampa Bay’s top minor-league affiliate in Syracuse.
“I think Ross really defines what we talk to our players about all the time. What we talk to parents about. What we review at our camps each year as a team,” Carlson said. “Ross wanted to be a hockey player. He made the commitment, him and his family.
“He made that commitment and then he worked extremely hard and continues to work extremely hard every single day to continue to get better. That is why he is where he is today.”
Carlson said he kept in regular contact with Colton throughout the winter and exchanged text messages with him Wednesday night. This is the second time in eight years the goal that clinched the Stanley Cup was scored by a RoughRider alum.
“I think it’s really cool, and I think it’s just a neat thing that you are able to coach the players and be around them, then see them move on and have success,” Carlson said. “Then I think it’s a great thing for our fans. We talk about these things, that when you come out to The Stable, legitimately you are seeing the NHL stars of tomorrow every single night. That’s pretty exciting.”
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