Photo by Rena Laverty
“Stick to it.”
Those are just three simple words of fatherly advice from Brian Rolston to Ryder Rolston, but they are making a huge difference for Ryder in his second season with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program.
“It is something that he has always told me,” Ryder said. “He knew that I could be a special player. Last year, it was different and difficult. We were playing against older guys and it was a challenge. He would tell me to go back and stay humble and work hard in practice. It helps me when it comes to games.”
The 6-foot, 167-pound forward has already noticed a change on the ice from his Under-17 season to this Under-18 season. Knowing more of what to expect has given him a huge boost of confidence.
“Going into this year, I knew what to expect and that really helped me with my play,” Rolston said. “Even with each college game, you knew that the guys were going to be bigger and more physical than you, but our training really helps us in these situations.”
Rolston, who has tallied 20 goals to date this season, has really seen how his game has developed over the course of these two years.
“Last year, I could only score goals when I was in front of the net or I would shovel the puck in,” he said. “This year, I am beating goalies, especially from the outside or at the top of the circle. I try to shoot as much as possible to work on my shot. After practice, I also put in extra time working on my shot. It’s nice to see how it is helping my game."
“You practice with the best players every day and that really helps your confidence. You can try things in practice and then put it into the game.”
It’s also helped that Rolston has been able to live at home and sleep in his own bed when playing for the NTDP. It is something that he truly appreciates.
“It has been huge for me,” said the Birmingham, Michigan, native. “I would not be where I am today without my parents. If I had a trying day, I can come home and see them and my brothers. When I reflect back on my two years here, it has really helped me, both on and off the ice.”
It also helps that Rolston can look up in the stands and see his family and friends cheering him on.
“It has been so much fun,” he said. “It seems that everyone in the Detroit area knows about the [NTDP]. I worked hard to make the team. It’s been great to have my life-long friends be able to see me play. Plus, when I look up, I know my family is up there watching me. My dad wore the USA jersey so I’m a legacy kid.”
Brian Rolston played for Team USA in three World Junior Championships and two Olympic Games, winning a silver medal in 2002 in Salt Lake City.
“It’s been unbelievable to be able to wear the USA jersey,” Ryder said. “It is something that I have always wanted to do and that is play for my country. Words really can’t describe how special it is.”
Favorite NHL Team
New York Rangers
Favorite NHL Player
Activity Away From Rink
Favorite Home Cooked Meal
Short rib pasta
Cat or Dog
Favorite Piece of Sports Memorabilia
Brent Burns signed stick
Rolston already had an opportunity to play against his future college team — the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Oct. 7. It was an extra special experience for him as Team USA picked up the 4-1 win.
“It was cool to play there,” he said. “I had gone to games there as a kid and dreamed about playing college hockey and of course, going to the next level. I just remember in warm-ups, seeing the gold helmets and realizing that I was playing against future teammates.
“It was our second college game and I think we were still trying to figure out how to win. Notre Dame scored first and then, we scored and that gave us some energy on the bench. I think we got hyped up and realized that we could win. We just flipped a switch and found a way. The energy in the building was unreal.”
Rolston cited the campus and facilities as reasons he chose South Bend. Plus, it helped that he already had some connections with the coaching staff.
“I’m very comfortable with Coach [Jeff] Jackson. I have known him for a long time and will know what to expect when I’m there. My dad and I talked it over and he played for Coach Jackson and won a national championship at [Lake Superior State University] when he was there. My uncle [Ron] worked for him at LSSU. Maybe they are feeling a little old since I will get a chance to play for him now.”
I would not be where I am today without my parents. If I had a trying day, I can come home and see them and my brothers. When I reflect back on my two years here, it has really helped me, both on and off the ice.
Right now, Rolston is focused on the end goal, making Team USA and winning a gold medal at the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation Under-18 World Championship. It’s going to be a simple formula to make that happen and something the U18s will need to focus on over the next few weeks.
“It all starts with the team,” he explained. “This is the one chance that we have been working towards the last two years. I think we have a special group and to be able to top it off with a gold medal in our final tournament would be special."
“We need to work hard in practice so when the time comes around, we will be ready to go.”
It also helps that the U18s are a close-knit bunch of players.
“I really think a big part of it is just how good this team is,” said Rolston. We have set records and it really helps us gel together. We have special players on this team and we each contribute in our own way. We can compete against anyone.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Photo by Rena Laverty