CEDAR RAPIDS — After earning second place at an international hockey competition, five RoughRiders look to finish the high school season strong.
Five players on the high school team were selected to play on Team Midwest at the International Silver Stick tournament held last month — Eric Wisnousky, a goalie and senior at Prairie; Ryan Carlson, a forward and senior at Kennedy; Joshua Nelson, a forward and senior at Clear Creek Amana; Ben Pizzimenti, a forward and senior at Iowa City West; and Luke Edwards, a defenseman and junior at Iowa City High.
Team Midwest also included players from Des Moines, Kansas City, Omaha, Quad Cities, Sioux City and Waterloo.
But back home, Tony Paoli, coach of the RoughRiders high school team, said the boys selected to play on Team Midwest are just one of the guys.
“They tried out for the Team Midwest, and that’s a nice honor for them,” Paoli said. “The five guys that played with Team Midwest came back, and they know they’re RoughRiders at heart.”
With four of the five being seniors, they have all played a significant role in leading the high school team.
“They’ve been leaders in the past, but this year as the seniors they’re more comfortable in that role,” Paoli said. “It’s great as a coaching staff to have those young men step up.”
That leadership and talent have made a big difference this season, propelling the RoughRiders to a 19-5 record. And, according to Pizzimenti, the leading goal scorer for the high school team, the RoughRiders’ record has been the best thing this season.
“It feels a lot more organized,” Pizzimenti said. “This season’s been a lot more positive than it has been last year and in years past.”
Pizzimenti said being organized means having more rules in place as a team. He also pointed out setting goals as a success factor for the young RoughRiders.
Pizzimenti, Carlson, Nelson and Paoli all said the primary goal for the remainder of this season is to win a championship. With such an impressive record and a plus-81 goal differential, they may do just that.
Nonetheless, Paoli said while the end game is to win a championship, taking one step at a time is what the team is focusing on right now.
“We have the talent and the ability to be successful,” Paoli said.
A championship will not define this year, however.
“Regardless if we win the championship or not, it will be a successful season,” Paoli said.
For the young RoughRiders on Team Midwest, hockey may not stop at the end of this season.
Nelson said he is deciding between going to college and playing junior hockey. Carlson said he plans to go to college to pursue engineering without playing hockey, unless he receives an offer at an upcoming showcase. Pizzimenti indicated an eagerness to play either college or junior hockey if the opportunity arises.