CEDAR RAPIDS — It only took two words for Xavier sophomore Andrei Bakanov to describe what it is like to play for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.
“An honor,” he said.
Bakanov had one reason for moving thousands of miles away from home — his love of hockey. He moved to the Midwest from Moscow, Russia.
After spending a brief time in Ohio and Michigan, Bakanov found himself in Iowa.
“I was playing hockey in Michigan when the RoughRiders drafted me to come play for them,” Bakanov said.
Wearing jersey No. 23, he is the youngest RoughRider.
Not only is Bakanov part of Cedar Rapids’ junior hockey team, he also has committed to the University of Michigan.
The 6-foot-22 forward committed to the Wolverines in April.
“I like Michigan a lot as a state, and they are a really good hockey team,” he said. “They also have really good education.”
After Bakanov plays in college, he has the goal to play professional hockey.
“I started playing hockey for fun and did not expect to play for a long time, but I have ended up in a different country because of it,” Bakanov said.
Monday through Friday, countless hours are spent on the ice for Bakanov and the rest of the RoughRiders team.
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Being far away from home and his family, Bakanov found a new home with Xavier junior Nick Banowetz and his family.
“This is our 11th year housing hockey players,” Banowetz said. “It is cool having a little brother.”
Bakanov said he had a bad experience with his first host family in Cleveland.
“Now I live with the Banowetz family, and they are an awesome family,” Bakanov said. “I love staying with them.”
The Roughriders play at Chicago tonight and host Waterloo on Saturday at 7:05 p.m.