BYRON CENTER, Mich. — The players of Fox Motors had the unique privilege of playing in the 2021 USA Hockey-Chipotle Tier II 16U National Championships on home ice at Southside Ice Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Fox Motors is led by head coach Dave VanDrunen, who is also a part of operations and is a co-hockey director at Southside Ice Arena.
Being able to compete in a national tournament at your home arena isn’t something that happens too often across any level of sport. For the players of Fox Motors, just being able to have limited family members in attendance and being able to put a national spotlight on their team was an amazing experience for them.
“For the kids having a couple extra family members has been huge, with the current COVID situation, the stands aren’t as full as they could’ve been,” said VanDrunen. “Also just being able to represent Fox Motors at the highest level, our players were excited to get the opportunity to do that.”
VanDrunen’s team was excited to see their season’s hard work paying off on home ice. Many of the players struggled to find a balance with their roles and how they work with each other on the ice, but the chemistry they had by the end of the season was the ultimate high note before playing on a national stage.
“My team is just a hard working team, I also have a bunch of different players with a bunch of different skill sets,” said VanDrunen. “To find a ‘happy medium’ was a little difficult during the year, but they came together and found their roles and started playing some really good hockey. They are all a bunch of great kids who are just happy to be at the ice rink.”
Fox Motors comepted in the 3A division alongside the Janesville Jets (Wisconsin), the Montgomery Blue Devils (Maryland), the Red Bank Generals (New Jersey) in the “Liberty” group of pool play. After losing some players to high school competition, the team has dealt with a limited bench roster and struggled at times throughout the season.
However, they have prided themselves on their attitude and commitment to playing their game at Nationals.
“We can be a physical team and our goaltending duo is pretty solid,” said VanDrunen. “Unfortunately we lost a couple kids to high school early in the year. I think one of our weaknesses is that we didn’t have a big bench and in some of our tough games some of our kids get a little tired.”
The COVID pandemic has affected sports across the country since it hit the United States last year, which has presented struggles and challenges for all levels of competition.
The challenges for an age group like that of Fox Motors is that they also have to juggle academics as well. Despite dealing with uncertainty, adversity, and at time frustration, this year has all been worth it for the Fox Motors youth squad.
What makes VanDrunen even more proud of his team is how they have been able to handle protocols and everything else that has presented obstacles this season.
“I really give these boys props because these kids are dealing with the same stuff that the pros are and they are also going to school,” VanDrunen said. “You have to give them props for battling through everything and being ready to go when we were allowed to.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.