TPHA student-athletes continuing to produce on the ice, in the classroom
With the Christmas break well in the rear-view mirror and the 2018-19 hockey season and academic year more than halfway complete, the prep and varsity teams at Tahoe Prep Hockey Academy have settled in nicely and are doing exactly what they have always intended – playing great hockey while developing players’ skills.
Tahoe’s prep squad is 6-2 in the NAHL’s Prep division, and the varsity team owns a 14-12 record.
Here is a look at six student-athletes who have made the transition to Tahoe seamlessly and how the experience has helped them improve this season.
A goalie on Tahoe’s prep team, LoRe came to Lake Tahoe for his junior season after having played for the Northern Cyclones of the United States Premier Hockey League in Hudson, N.H., the last two years. The 16-year-old is a native of Franklin Square, N.Y., and his time with the Cyclones gave him the experience of living with billet families, but he said his move to Tahoe Prep Academy’s dorms in the Sierra Nevada was on a different level.
“I love the mountains, and the scenery and the dorms and facility are amazing,” LoRe said. “This year has been the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey. Living here, I feel we’re like a real family.”
LoRe said the Tahoe Prep’s formula of five days a week on the ice and strength conditioning at Barton’s Center for Excellence is moving him forward toward his goal to play Division I college hockey, and his number one choice is Boston College. LoRe also credited Tahoe Prep goaltender coach Ed Fritz with improving his mental game.
“The coaches, staff, and the trainers at the Center for Excellence are amazing,” LoRe said. “I’ve become a lot stronger and more focused player. When I decided to come to Tahoe, I just wanted to get better, to develop as a player, and develop as a person, and this has allowed me to do that.”
LoRe started playing hockey at age 10 and has always been a goalie. His other sports passion was baseball, where he played third base. In nine games with the prep team this season, LoRe has a .875 save percentage.
Schiefelbein is a 17-year-old junior who plays center for the academy’s prep team and is in his first year as a student-athlete at the academy after most recently having played for the Mission AZ 16U AA team last season. He committed to attend Tahoe Prep Academy right away without even visiting Tahoe, and he said he’s glad he did.
“It’s been such an amazing change – I’ve made lifetime friends here,” he said. “You’re playing at the highest level against some of the best, and in front of scouts and coaches, and you have to bring it every time you are on the ice.”
In 16 games with the prep team, Schiefelbein has scored six goals and recorded four assists. He’s hoping his time at Tahoe Prep prepares him for the next step of his hockey career.
“I want to play Division I college hockey more than anything,” Schiefelbein admitted. “I’m focused on getting to college hockey, and Arizona State is my top pick right now. Sometimes the load can get a little mentally challenging, but you have to get better every day, and you have to grow up a lot and learn to take on basic adult things like having responsibility for yourself academically and socially.”
A 16-year-old sophomore from Valencia, Calif., Meaney came to Tahoe from West Ranch High School, where he played for the school’s team in the L.A. Kings High School Hockey League. His goal is to become the best hockey player he can be and play as long as he can, and he said Tahoe Prep’s focus on skill and development aligned with his aspirations.
“I want to play hockey at the highest level that I can, so when I’m done, I can look back and be happy with what I accomplished,” said Meaney, who has learned a lot from his father’s experience as a water polo player in college. “My dad taught me that.
“It was hard the first month, living away from all of my friends and family, but after a while being here, everyone becomes your friends and family. And the part of the program that has helped me the most is the amount of time we have focused on hockey – how many times I’m on the ice every week.”
Meaney said the competition he has faced playing with the prep team has opened his eyes to the next level of hockey, and it hit home at the CCM World Invite tournament in Chicago this past November.
“It’s so different,” Meaney said. “The players are older, more skilled and they are working just as hard as I am. We were playing against 19-year-olds. It just showed me how much quicker and bigger the game is, and I was a little nervous at the beginning of the season, but that went away as we got more into it.
“This year for me is about getting into the game better, learning the game, and working on my shot. I have gotten very close to my goals. It’s constantly being surrounded by the game of hockey and shooting every day.”
As for the rest of the Tahoe experience, as a Southern California native, Meaney said he just can’t quite get over having evergreen trees on a beach.
Moving from his hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico to Tahoe could have been a shock to the system for Sutton, but the 16-year-old sophomore has adjusted nicely to his new surroundings. For the right winger on Tahoe’s varsity squad, the ability to succeed academically while advancing his hockey skills made Tahoe Prep the right fit. He said his experience this year is a big change from his freshman year at home, and it shows in his current 3.8-grade point average and on the ice.
“School never met with hockey,” he explained of his previous experience trying to mesh athletics and academics. “Being able to go out and make these trips for games and still stay caught up at school is a privileged-but-earned experience. You have to be disciplined and stay on top of your classes, but the support is also here. Our academic supervisor does a really good job. I like to picture her as the reality check.”
Sutton said his hockey goal this year is to make the prep team, and all the time he is spending on the ice is paying off. He said he noticed the changes in his game when he practiced with his old team during Christmas break.
“The level of play is extremely different from what I was used to – picture NASCAR compared to Formula One racing,” he joked. “I appreciate the experiences I’m getting from hockey and the travel, getting to see so much of the country.”
Sutton said he is especially appreciative of his parents for making Tahoe Prep possible for him.
“I want to get a scholarship for college and pay them back for how hard they worked to get me here,” he said.
Having played hockey since he was just six, Parker – now a 15-year-old sophomore – knew how much he loved the game. When his coach with the California Heat knew he was looking to advance, he connected him with coach Leo Fenn at Tahoe Prep, and after trying out with the academy during a school break, Parker was in.
“My main goal was to focus on getting better and to grow up as a person,” said Parker, a defenseman on the varsity team from Inglewood. “In the beginning, it was rough being away from my family, but the team has turned into family and I love it. And you do grow up quicker – we each have our own jobs every day around the dorm, cleaning tables, drying the dishes and doing our own laundry.”
Parker said he is focused on trying to get as far as he can in the sport, and the five-day-a-week schedule of on-ice and strength training is helping him achieve that.
“I’ve noticed it in my speed and preparation for games,” he said.
Parker said it’s also about the atmosphere created by his teammates.
“If someone asked me if they should consider attending THA, I’d 100 percent say go and do it,” he raved. “You become a better, as a player and a person.”
Making the decision to attend Tahoe Prep was a relatively easy one for Honda and his family. The 15-year-old freshman who plays for the varsity team is from the remote mountain town of Bishop, Calif. With no local year-round rink, he and his parents commuted two and a half hours each way along the Eastern Sierra, often through snowstorms, for a couple years to allow Honda and his brother to play with the Tahoe Grizzlies. With high school on the horizon and no other teams to consider nearby, it seemed like hockey wasn’t going to work.
“The more I played the more I wanted to advance and having this opportunity to come to Tahoe Prep made me feel like I could have a bigger goal with hockey,” Honda said.
Making the jump from B-level hockey to the varsity team was tough, but it has been made easier by Tahoe Prep’s coaches and players, Honda said.
“It was hard at first – the speed is so different, but you are constantly improving and the coaches care, and the whole team was super welcoming,” he said. “They didn’t hold it against me. With this program, you are practicing every day for like 10 months out of the year. You can’t get that development anywhere else.”
— Greg Ball
(March 20, 2019)