It is hard work to be a goalie.
You do get scored on, in any league, any division, and at any level.
“They are a lot faster,” Juneau-Douglas High School senior goalie Colter Pritchard said of his work in the pipes against Switzerland in March. “And they work better as a team. It takes a lot of hard work to stay focused.”
Pritchard took advantage of his hard work between the pipes as an opportunity to skate with the Colorado Ski Country Selects Team, and to play in Switzerland last March. The Selects were made up of current High School or Midget aged players (birth years 1993-96).
Colorado coach Bryan Smith liked Pritchard’s “can do attitude” and goal tending ability enough to select him for the 17-player strong travel team.
The team competed in Engelberg, Switzerland against the Switzerland Junior Elite and Junior Top teams. Those squads have been playing together since they first learned to lace on skates.
“They are faster and their style of play is different than ours,” Pritchard said. “They pass instead of hitting. Us Americans we usually hit. They like to use speed up and down the ice. Everything they do.”
Pritchard said he kept expecting the Swiss players be taken down before they got on goal. The Swiss teams, however, were the equivalent of second tier club teams or college teams.
“They use so much speed that even for my teammates it was hard to hit them,” Pritchard said. “Yeah, I did get scored on. With that type of speed I couldn’t be as aggressive out of the net. I had to be a little more conservative and play back and be more aware of where their players were. They hit some shots that were incredible for how old they were.”
Coach Smith said the team was exciting and the trip was one of the best tours providing players the opportunity to compete against, and train with, the top European teams in the region.
“We really didn’t know our teammates that well either,” Pritchard said. “That was another neat part about the trip, getting to know my teammates. We had like two practices together and then it was our first game.”
Even with little time to practice, the team had good chemistry and a great variety of skill. By time the fifth game approached, the team had started playing well together. The game of hockey in Switzerland involved more finesse stick handling and less hitting.
“The stick handling was amazing to see,” Pritchard said. “We didn’t actually win a game but I was excited to have this chance of a lifetime to represent the United States and to play hockey in Europe. After the first game we figured out we were playing against A-League sponsored teams.”
In addition to playing hockey, the team explored local culture from Luzern and the Crying Lion to Jungfraujoch, a mountain pass in the Bernese Alps on the boundary between the cantons of Bern and Valais. It is often referred to as the “Top Of Europe” and is connected by the highest railway station in Europe. They were able to take an elevator to the summit and a small viewing platform and scientific observatory called the Sphinx Observatory.
“It was pretty cool,” Pritchard said. “The highest weather station in Europe. We were looking down at these little villages that that were actually large cities.”
They also experienced the food in Switzerland.
“Some of it I wasn’t always sure what I was eating,” Prichard said. “It was funky looking. I saw stuff that looked like wet fries, but I tasted it and it was good. The food was always good there.”
Pritchard stated that seeing a different culture was a great experience.
“I will never forget this experience to represent the United States,” Pritchard said. “I loved it over there. If I ever get the opportunity again, I would go in a heartbeat.”
Pritchard is continuing dry-land training for the upcoming JDHS season. He just finished attending a goalie camp in Anchorage last week with the UAA goalie coach and he has camps lined up in Canada and Colorado.
“I am trying to get in a little better shape before the season starts,” Pritchard said. “Trying to put in some hard work now.”