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International Experience Helped Lead Florida’s Golden Wolves to Chipotle-USA Hockey National Championships

By Tom Robinson, 04/04/24, 11:15AM MDT


The team’s roster features players with experience playing for Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Israel and more.

Delmont, Pa. -- Chris Otero’s hockey skills and pursuits have not only brought him to Delmont, Pennsylvania, for the 2024 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 18U National Championship.

They are taking him all around the world.

Before joining the Golden Wolves in Florida to prepare for nationals, Otero was in Bogota, Colombia, in March practicing with the country’s national team.

“I’ve put so many years of my life into hockey and this is a pretty big month for me in April,” Otero said.

Before taking that next step into junior or college hockey, the 18-year-old high school senior will wrap up the hectic month with the Colombian Men’s National Team, which selected him to be part of its contingent participating in the IIHF Development Cup April 21-26 in Slovakia.

“I have a couple of tournaments," Otero said. "I have nationals. I have a showcase in Dallas and then I have the Slovakia tournament.

“Depending how things go, I’m open to many opportunities.”

International hockey experience is something familiar to Otero and his Golden Wolves teammates.

An NHL production crew interviewed Otero while he was in Colombia for a new series, “This is Hockey.” The crew has traveled to Brazil and will make stops in Argentina, Chile, Jamaica and Puerto Rico for reports based on teams that participate in the Amerigol LATAM Cup.

Otero’s father, Juan Carlos Otero, is the founder and president of Amerigol International Hockey Association. It started the LATAM Cup in 2018 and has seen it grow rapidly since.

With support from the NHL and the NHL Players Association, the LATAM Cup is designed to break barriers and unite non-traditional hockey markets.

The Golden Wolves’ roster at nationals features many players who have played in the LATAM Cup, based on their heritage with eligibility determined according to birthplace for them, their parents or grandparents.

Henry Alvarez, Cristian Gomez and Daniel Rodriguez of Cuban heritage have played for Team Caribbean; Adrian Rios of Nicaraguan heritage has played for Team Central America; Kevin Garcia has played for Team Argentina; Ryan Patrick Koch has played for Team Brazil; Joshua Shimony has played for Team Israel; and Otero has played for Team Colombia.

In addition to playing on the Golden Wolves and on various international teams in the LATAM Cup, the team members are also split among South Florida high schools, some continuing as teammates and others squaring off as opponents.

“It’s cool getting a little change of scenery and playing with different players and players with different styles and then resorting back to what has worked for us for nationals,” Chris Otero said. “It’s going to be fun. I’m excited. I love every team I’ve played on. I haven’t had a bad experience.”

Dan Reilly is responsible for pulling it all together as coach of the Golden Wolves and of the Southwest Broward High School team that combines Otero and five other team members from a group of four high schools in Broward County.

“It’s just bragging rights,” Reilly said. “We’re in a weird situation down here. Because there are only so many rinks down here, our demographics, we’re drawing from a larger area and all season the kids will go back and forth for the high school teams, too.

“They get a good taste of back and forth throughout the year, whether it’s the LATAM stuff or the high school stuff.”

It all adds a little to the competition.

“In the high school league, when we play against them, it’s always fun, friendly competition,” Otero said. “It’s always a blast playing against my boys.”

When they are joined together, the Golden Wolves are tough to beat. The team from Pembroke Pines, Florida, entered nationals with a 46-6-2 record.

“We like to play with pace, and we like to be aggressive,” Reilly said. “I don’t mean that in a hitting sense. I mean that more that we like to force the other team into making mistakes and limit ours. We find that works for us.”

With a team heavy on high school seniors playing together for the last time, Reilly said the Golden Wolves have been committed to winning this season and going out on a high note.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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