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Arizona youth hockey, AHSHA graduate Garnier employs roundabout journey to play for NA3HL’s Capitals


Cole Garnier’s hockey journey is a little different than most.

Growing up in the small college town of Brockport, N.Y., outside of Rochester, he and his family would always go to watch the school’s college hockey team play and from there, he fell in love with the game.

“I started as a skater when I was nine but quickly realized I wasn’t cut out for it as during my first season, my brother Clayton had led our team in points while I hadn’t managed to register a single one,” said Garnier. “The next season, the goalie had moved up from Squirts to Pee Wees and the team needed someone to fill his role and I figured I could give it a try. It has stuck with me ever since.”

In 2014, Garnier moved to Arizona with his mom and brother and lived in Mesa before recently moving to Scottsdale.

This season, Garnier is on the move again, making his first foray into junior hockey with the NA3HL’s Atlanta Capitals.

“The opportunity arose when I asked my brother to reach out to an old coach of ours, Rob Kerns, to help find me a place to play this season since we knew him to have many connections across the junior hockey scope,” Garnier said. “He asked around a bit and managed to find me a place here in Atlanta. This opportunity never would’ve come to fruition without his help.

garnier4“What showed to be very appealing about this team to me was that after speaking with coach John Bowkus, it became very clear that his main priority is to make his players better so they can continue to move forward into bigger and better things in their hockey careers, which is exactly what I want to do this season. The NA3HL’s South Division is also a very hard-fought and tough division with much competition, which I find to be exciting because it will always push me to be the best player I can be on the ice.”

Playing NCAA hockey has been a longstanding goal of Garnier’s and he’s hoping to use the NA3HL as a springboard to the college hockey game.

“A huge part of this program and the league in general is preparing us to get to the next level of play,” said Garnier. “It means so much to me that I can get that opportunity to continue moving up the junior hockey ladder throughout these next couple of years. Being in a new place is exciting for sure, but I definitely miss my family and friends back home. Atlanta is a great city, though, and I’ve found plenty to do to keep each day fresh and will probably continue to do so.”

During his youth hockey days, Garnier played for the DYHA Jr. Sun Devils, Arizona Hockey Union, Arizona Titans and in AHSHA for Corona del Sol, where he captained the Aztecs his senior season.

“Some coaches who were very impactful to me over my years of playing in Arizona would be my goalie coach Jeff Tecca, who helped improve every aspect of my game over this past year as I trained with him multiple times every week, along with Jake Bayer, Marc Membrila, Rob Kerns, Brad Lepper, and Mike Hensdell,” noted Garnier.

Moving forward, Garnier recognizes the opportunities he has earned for himself and wants to create more.

“In the short term, I plan to use this season as a stepping-stone to continue to grow my game and move on to the next level and soon enough, college hockey,” Garnier said. “In the longer term, I obviously want hockey to be part of my entire life, whether I can continue playing after college or pursue a career in scouting, management, or as an analyst. Any career where I get to stay near the game I love is a good one to me.”

— Matt Mackinder

(September 22, 2021)

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