ROCK SPRINGS – The season did not start how the hockey players expected and there have been unexpected complications, but the end goal has never changed. They are working hard toward winning a state championship.
Micah Crum, Logan Marroquin, Malyki Uranker, Kyler VanValkenburg, Tommy Edwards, Justin Morgan and Justice Nations are seven players from Rock Springs and Green River who are now skating with Pinedale Glaciers Midget team.
Since transitioning to Pinedale, Crum said the season has been great. The young forward said everyone in Pinedale welcomed him with open arms immediately and that everyone on his new team has great chemistry. He added that his coach knows a lot about the game.
“Our coach (Jeff Anderson) makes sure everything is in line and that everyone is on the same page,” he said.
Crum, who lives in Green River, said having his friends from Rock Springs join him in Pinedale has been great.
“I feel like without them, we couldn’t do as much as we do now. Those six players do a lot for the team and have amazing chemistry each other,” he said.
As for the other out-county players, each one who sat down to talk about the issue agreed with Crum, saying that the season they are having in Pinedale is developing into something really special.
“Going to Pinedale has worked out well,” Marroquin said. “We’ve had an amazing season so far, and I’m definitely thinking strongly of playing for them next year, even if Rock Springs has a midget team to return to.”
Marroquin, who is a junior in high school, has grown up playing for the Miners since he was 5 years old. When asked about how the transition was going to play for a team he has grown up competing against, he said at first it was a bit weird, but right away he saw just how special Pinedale’s team was.
“After the first practice, I knew this team was talented,” he said. “We have a lot of skilled players and everyone shares a strong bond. I feel like if we continue to play at the level we have been, we have a great chance at winning state.”
According to Uranker, another player who has grown up playing for Rock Springs, he too felt a bit weird going to play for Pinedale. However, after coming off an injury he sustained from this past football season and watching just one game from the stands, he was excited to join the Glaciers.
“Everyone on the team works well with each other,” he said. “The most hectic part of it all has probably been the travel. We practice twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and even that hasn’t been bad.”
As for VanValkenburg, before any issues even rose, he already knew he was going to be skating out for Pinedale for the 2019 season.
“I knew last year was going to be my final season with Miners because my parents were going to move to Pinedale,” he said. “The transition for me wasn’t bad at all because they (Pinedale) were very welcoming. They asked me even last year if I wanted to play for them, but I decided to stay in Rock Springs because at the time my brother was a senior and I wanted to play with him one last time.”
Since VanValkenburg was one of the first Rock Springs players Pinedale reached out to about playing for the team, to help make the transition even easier, he asked coach Anderson if he could bring with him some friends of his to play. Almost immediately Anderson said, yes, bring them up.
“They didn’t care who it was that came with me,” VanValkenburg said. “Even though we have all grown up wanting to beat Pinedale, playing with them now has felt like a new chance and a new opportunity for us all.”
Edwards, another senior on the team, said he was one of the last ones to say yes about going to Pinedale.
“I didn’t want to be the only senior left playing in Rock Springs even if there was going to be a midget team,” he said. “Looking back, I’m glad I made the decision to keep playing and playing for Pinedale because this team is very talented and I think we have a great shot at winning state.”
Nations said making the move to play for a different team this season was never a difficult choice to make.
“When everything first went down, my thoughts were, yes, I want to go,” he said. “I’ve played baseball in Sweetwater County and now hockey. It’s always been fun, but I want to see what everything else has to offer. Over the years of playing down in the B division for the Miners, going to Pinedale and playing A gave me the chance to play bigger competition and that’s what I wanted.”
FORFEITING A GAME
A few weeks into the start of the season, following a 6-0 start, the Pinedale team was told it was going to have to forfeit all of its games since the transfer paperwork was not submitted for multiple players. The penalty was later reduced to one forfeited game.
“Through my eyes, I was really confused,” Crum said. “The team or the players had no control over what happened. That was more of an administration problem.”
When asked what it felt like to have a win stripped away due to paperwork issues, Edwards said, “That really sucked. … After our first few wins the entire team wanted to continue our perfect start, but then that happened. At the same time, it gave us all one more reason to work even harder.”
Talking with each Sweetwater County player except Morgan, the skaters said they are confused and hurt how everything played out, but they are not blaming anyone. Instead, they said the team is focused on the season at hand.
In light of everything that has gone down, the players said they have no ill will toward the Rock Springs Amateur Hockey Association or with anyone in the Wyoming Amateur Hockey League administration.
In fact, the players interviewed said they hope for the best when talking about the future of the Rock Springs Miners midget team.
With only a few weeks remaining in the season, Pinedale currently sits in second place in the WAHL 18U standings with 29 points, trailing only Gillette who has 30 points.
Currently the Glaciers’ overall record sits at 14-3-1.