Photo by Rena Laverty
Netminder Cameron Rowe is not quite yet ready for his first season with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program Under-17 team to end. He is already in the NTDP record books, but is looking for even more.
Rowe and his U17 teammates are fresh off their first-ever USHL playoff series win, beating the Chicago Steel three games to one. The series included back-to-back overtime wins on the road to close it out.
“It really showed us that we were meant to be there,” Rowe said. “It was about hard work and how we play the game. I think we are a good team and we were able to show that in the series win over Chicago.”
Rowe even recorded his first career shutout, a 3-0 win against the Steel in the opener on April 21.
“In big games, you always want to take it to another level,” said Rowe, who finished with 34 saves in the victory. “We really wanted to win that first game. We were pushing each other, and I did my part to help out the guys on the team. It was a team win. When there is a shutout, the goalie gets the credit, but you need the defense and forwards in front of you to play well and help out.”
Rowe and his U17 teammates will now face the Youngstown Phantoms in the USHL Eastern Conference finals. The best-of-five series will see Team USA host Game 1 (May 1) and 2 (May 2) at USA Hockey Arena before hitting the road for Games 3 and 4. If necessary, Game 5 is scheduled for Tuesday, May 8 at home. Rowe believes there will be a simple formula for success.
“We need to continue to play the way we do,” he said. “As a team, when we play as Coach Wrobo [Head Coach John Wroblewski] taught us, we know we can win. We have faith in each other. We need to keep an even keel, not get too high and not get too low.
“We need to use that same mentality that we have been using all year. Keep playing the system and a team game. Now, it’s a grind and you get tired, but we need to bear down and play our system. Coach is always pushing us to do our best.”
For Rowe, it was his parents Rocky and Michele that encouraged him to start out in hockey
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“I grew up in a hockey family,” the Wilmette, Illinois, native said. “My dad was a hockey fan, but he never played. My mom taught me how to skate. Her dad — my grandfather — played hockey at a high level. As soon as I started, I just fell in love with it.”
Being a goaltender was something that Rowe always wanted to do, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“There was something about being a goalie that was so different,” he explained. “It’s a special position. No one on the ice understands what you need to do. It’s a team sport — and you need good goaltending to win. When I started being a goalie, I really liked being in that position and the pressure that it takes.
“I started at defenseman for my first two years in a house league [at 5-7 years old] then I played goalie that spring season for about a month. The next fall, I knew that is exactly what I wanted to be and so I started in goal full time.”
As a team, when we play as Coach Wrobo taught us, we know we can win. We have faith in each other. We need to keep an even keel, not get too high and not get too low.
Growing up, there was one goaltender that Rowe idolized and that was six-time Vezina Trophy winner and Hockey Hall of Famer Dominik Hašek.
“As a kid, I would watch videos of him to see the way he would move and the battles that he would have. I couldn’t figure out how he could move so well and stop pucks. He was a dominant goalie. He would always find ways to stop the puck and win big games,” said Rowe.
Rowe, who stands in at Hasek’s 6-foot-1, but with more bulk at 206 pounds, credits NTDP goaltending coach Thomas Speer as a big reason behind his success, especially when it comes to winning those big games.
“It’s been unbelievable working with Coach Speer,” said Rowe. “I think I learned more in my first month here than all of last year. I skate with him three times a week and we watch video almost every day, whether it is from our game or an NHL game. He has really helped me improve my game this year.
“Learning to use my size was a learning curve. You have to play more controlled and confident in the pipes. In terms of the technical game, size gets better. You don’t have to move as far and are able to stop the pucks.”
In addition to improving his own game, Rowe has relished the opportunity to represent his country every single day.
Photo by Rena Laverty
“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “It is something that every little kid dreams about, playing for USA Hockey. It seemed so far away and now to be at this point where I get to put on the jersey every day. You can really see what you have accomplished when you make the NTDP. To wear the crest is a privilege and I am dedicated to wearing it every day.”
One of his favorite memories came during international play — way back in November in Dawson Creek, British Columbia.
“We won 6-4 vs. Canada in the gold medal game of the U17 World Challenge and that was the biggest moment for me this year,” said Rowe. “I was in net when we beat Canada in Canada. It was great to celebrate with the best 22 guys in the country. It was a team win.”
Maybe that is why Rowe understands that magnitude of the next few games with a trip to the Clark Cup on the line. One thing is certain, he realizes just how much he has learned about himself this year.
“There is a lot more that you are capable of doing,” said Rowe. “You need to push limits and barriers to get to where you want to be.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.