Roller Hockey Tournament on December 7 Will Feature San Angelo's Wolfpack
SAN ANGELO, TX — “I swear I saw it! It’s got to be around here somewhere,” one man said. He was with another man, both wearing military fatigues, while driving the street of San Angelo with a purpose. In the passenger’s hand was held a crude Google Earth print out of an aerial photograph of the city. “Turn Here!” said the passenger in an excited tone as the full-size pickup truck veered across the turning lane and beat the yellow light through the intersection.
These men were Marines, but the excitement of the moment had overcome them with anticipation. Vincent Colombo and Devin Myers were stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base for almost a year before they spotted something on the internet that had piqued their interest.
“That’s got to be it!” uttered Devin as their eyes beheld the long white behemoth among the dry grass and mesquite trees. The car came to a stop in a parking lot, and the Marines stepped out of the vehicle and stared in amazement. A silence fell over the situation, as Vincent, the taller of the two stroked his dark brown moustache before a smile slowly crawled over his face. “I can’t believe it,” were the only words that slipped through Devin’s lips as he removed his cover, revealing his short blonde hair as the punishing sun that beat down upon them.
It was a hockey rink.
The paint on the cement was all but faded, the hinges and locks on all the doors were rusted and difficult, and the remnants of advertising posters flapped in the stiff Texas breeze – last witnesses of a bygone age. It was the forgotten decay of what had once been a hockey town all but lost to history.
“We’ve got to tell my dad, and the rest of the guys on base this is here!,” Vincent said. His eyes glimmered as he beheld the sight before him. A Michigan native, and long-time Detroit Red Wings fan, he was about to breathe new life into hockey in San Angelo. He was going to bring in the Marines.
The group of dedicated players was small in the first days of the revival. Vinny and Devin brought on board Vinny’s dad Vick, his brother Aaron, Gunnery Sgt. John Anderson, Tech Sgt. Mike Matinchek, Tech Sgt. Alex Salamachia, and Allen Hotchkiss, a civilian contractor with the military. All were hockey fans, some were sick of the drive to play ice hockey in San Antonio on the weekends and were overjoyed to find a local rink just 10 minutes north of the base.
And for the first time in over a decade, hockey was being played in San Angelo.
Former players and local enthusiasts started to hear rumors of hockey being played at the old rink in Kirby park. What started out as three or four players shooting the puck around rode a ground swell of interest as hockey players from across the city came out of hibernation. Before anyone knew it, full scale 4 on 4 games were being played on a weekly basis. Military transplants had brought a love of hockey back into West Texas, and it caught fire with the now older and more seasoned clientele from the Santa Fe days, not to mention the young hockey devotes’ that had never been formerly introduced to Roller Hockey properly on this scale.
The military attaché got with the locals that weren’t a part of the new Jesters Hockey revival and formed the first travel team for San Angelo, naming them the Wolfpack after their marine squadron counterpart on base at Goodfellow AFB. The team came together quickly, forming the San Angelo Wolfpack as not only the military team, but it was the team that was built off the youth of kids from the old SAAHA who were still hungry for competition.
The first competition was against Key City Hockey Association in Abilene. After years of talking back and forth about an exhibition game, it finally happened on November 5, 2018. The first official game took place between the Abilene Ambush and the San Angelo Wolfpack, and the fallout would be felt across the state of Texas.
Key City Hockey was everything that San Angelo wasn’t. It had a history as an unbroken ongoing league that not only had a youth program and a high school hockey program, they also had a rink with lights, massive stands, snack bar, and adequate storage. They had everything you might need for a healthy roller hockey competitive team and over the years the overall hockey culture has remained strong in the Abilene area with the local air force regimen bringing in new hockey talent every few years to keep the league fully stocked. The upstart San Angelo team had no idea what to expect for this first game against another city and traveled to Abilene to see if the team had what it took to compete with the West Texas hockey establishment.
The double header was the most intense hockey anyone from either city had seen in collective memory. And as luck would have it, through the flurry of broken sticks and deflected pucks, San Angelo swept the series with a 4-2 victory in the first game followed by a 10-2 romp in the nightcap. It was the rebirth of a rivalry, the first of what would become a semi-annual competition between the two clubs and sewn the promise of something even bigger on the horizon.
It was at this moment where networking started to build San Angelo into the tight knit Texas roller hockey community. From Abilene to San Antonio, from Round Rock to Waco, from Dallas all the way down to McAllen in the Rio Grande Valley, hockey clubs were hungry for competition, and San Angelo was ground zero for a Texas hockey revival.
The first captain of the Wolfpack was John Anderson, a Gunnery Sergeant in the Marine Corps fire fighting squadron where the hockey team derived its namesake. Yet in the military tradition of advancement and relocation, the entirety of the military core of the team was shipped out by the middle of the 2019 season. And before he left, it was the duty of the captain to handpick his successor to lead the Wolfpack onto the field of battle. The weight of the Captains’ mark fell upon the shoulders of lifelong San Angelo resident and hockey enthusiast Scott Talley.
The Talley family name had been synonymous with San Angelo Hockey since the Santa Fe parking lot days. First a member of the Predators before being traded to the Raging Bananas in the Angelo Amateur Hockey League, Scott was the iron man who facilitated Sunday Mornings to be rink time exclusively for the hockey team, as well as adopting the park property surrounding the rink in Kirby Park for trash clean up. He is an Angelo State University grad student, working on a master’s degree in psychology. He is the most dependable player on the rink, once or twice a week every week, always with extra sticks to let the rookies borrow. His sizzling slapshots are enough to shred nets and turn incisors into rink debris, not to mention his impeccable passing ability that puts a puck on a dime at 40 yards. He Juggles hockey life with raising his 4 children, the youngest just turning 1 year old recently all the way up to a precocious 14-year-old. The discipline of working out and staying focused in his 30’s all comes down to love of the game and his desire to see it grow in San Angelo, so he can maybe someday coach his kids in the same sport in which he invests so much of his time.
Above: The San Angelo Wolfpack (Contributed/San Angelo Wolfpack)
The goalie for the Wolfpack is Trey Duncan, who currently holds the title of longest tenured active goal tender in San Angelo. Starting his career as a 14-year-old in San Angelo Amateur Hockey Association with the rest of the kids, he continues to stand between the pipes adorned with his custom hockey helmet decorated with photos of Anna Kendrick. He’s not saying he is seeking a date with her, but if it gets her to come watch a game, then everyone wins. Once a mainstay of Parrots’ Head and Shenanigan’s Sports Bar when the lights came on at the end of the night, he claims to this day that he plays better when he is hung over. This man has actually contributed an actual Wrestling Belt for this years “Most Valuable Goalie” award for the West Texas Shootout Hockey Tournament. He states with no sense of irony, “I wanted to make sure the trophy was something that I would want in my trophy case after the tournament is over.”
You would never guess that the smiling, mild mannered 20-something with a man-bun blue shirt who helps you find electronics at Best Buy is anything close to a hockey player. But not only can Keanu Henson convince you to upgrade to the larger 4K tv, but he is undoubtedly the best puck handler in the city, outmaneuvering 3 defenders in a single rush to score an unassisted goal in the most recent rivalry game against Abilene. He’s cocky, unapologetic, and most importantly, the best offensive weapon the Wolfpack have on their squad. He is one of the 3-pronged attack for the top line of the San Angelo Wolfpack’s offensive attack.
The rain was coming down softly on the rink at Kirby park. It wasn’t a hard rain by any means, but for the 2 hockey players standing on the wet cement with hockey sticks in their hands, it was enough to keep the roller skates off their feet and slow down practice. The taller of the two stood against the rain, drops of water falling from the bill of his Dallas Stars hat as he relentlessly drove the puck into the net over, and over, and over again. A foreman for his family business, Williamson Excavation, when he’s not climbing poles to install fiberoptic cable, Laredo Williamson is most likely the lone player you will see on any given day as you drive past Kirby Park hockey rink. He found himself a new father only days prior to kickoff of the tournament as his first daughter Erika came into the world last Monday.
Standing 30 feet from him across the rink, in his trademark slippers and socks, is Austin Scroggs. A relative newcomer to the Wolfpack, his fast and aggressive style of play blends well with both Laredo’s trigger-happy shooting and Keanu’s unnecessarily complex puck play. Austin, an electrician by trade, added another baby to the Scroggs household recently as well. Dawning his Arizona Coyotes jersey as it slowly fills with rain, working the pass to Laredo to take the slap shot becomes second nature to the cornerstone of the zone attack to score goals for the red and white jerseys.
Keanu Henson, Austin Scroggs and Laredo Williamson complete the tri-fecta of the “Three Amigos” for the Wolfpack. The Speed of Austin, mixed with the shooting of Laredo, combined with the stick handling of Keanu make for a deadly combination of goal scoring that is outrageously fun to watch.
Manning the defense for the Wolfpack is grizzled ice hockey veteran Allen Hotchkiss, an EPA contractor that works with the military across 3 states and endless trips from one end to the other. When he isn’t making special trips to San Antonio to get some work in on the ice, he uses his immense 6’6” frame to leverage himself between the puck and the skater, clear the zone, or take a shot on net. He sadly lost his faithful dog of many years and best friend, a golden retriever named Archer, to the ravages of age. But his attitude is undeterred as hockey remains one of the few dependable things in such an unpredictable world.
Kurt Bueker, father, husband, soccer coach, undaunted defensemen, has been with the club since the start. At odds with a reoccurring back injury; but when he is on, he is unstoppable passing, shooting, and scoring. Joe Peacock shows up with the experience of a longtime ice hockey player, as well as the muscle to sling a pass, and find the top corner of the net in a pinch. And finally, Ben Martin rounds out the Wolfpack defensively. He’s not fast, he can’t puck handle, but he will figure out how to get himself or his stick in the way of every shot when playing defense, to the dismay of his bruised body and chipped teeth.
At last years’ tournament, the Wolfpack took an early lead against the Jesters in the championship game, before ultimately falling short in the final minutes to come in 2nd place. This year, the team is rebuilt, refocused, and looking to charge into the tournament to attend to unfinished business and take home the Sanley Cup for the first time in club history!
J & T’s Welding LLC presents the 2019 West Texas Shootout Hockey Tournament starting Saturday, December 7, 2019 at 8:00 a.m. at the Kirby Park hockey rink, 1405 Edmund Boulevard in San Angelo Texas.
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