CEDAR RAPIDS - For most high school athletes in Iowa when it comes to winter sports, basketball and wrestling are the only options.
Not the case for Springville sophomore Brendan Shaner.
Hockey has been a part of Shaner’s life for as long as he can remember, and while the high school options for Iowans in regards to the sport of hockey as slim to none, that hasn’t stopped Shaner from playing the sport that he loves.
“I started skating when I was four-years-old growing up in Waterloo,” said Shaner, who is a member of the 2019-20 High School RoughRiders hockey team who play their games at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. “I’ve had a large connection to hockey since my brother Jordan was playing hockey, and he inspired me to play.”
Shaner is Springville’s lone representative on the team, and is one of 17 greater metro schools that make up the 37-member RoughRider roster, including Cedar Rapids Prairie, Cedar Rapids Washington, Clear Creek-Amana, Linn-Mar, Benton Community, Vinton-Shellsburg, Alburnett and several Iowa City-area schools.
Shaner, who started on the RoughRiders’ varsity team as a mere freshman last season, has helped the team to a 7-2 start so far this winter.
“My position is defense, I protect the goalie and stop oncoming players from getting past me,” Shaner said. “I play a large role on the ice with my ‘D’ partner Holden Sevening.
“I started varsity as a freshman, which was a great experience. I’m at the same level this year just with more responsibility.”
The RoughRiders are members of a 14-team Midwest High School Hockey League (MHSHL) and have completed a quarter of their 32-game stint of the 2019-20 season.
Team participating in the MHSHL are classified as Tier-II combined teams under USA Hockey guidelines. The state of Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri lack community-bases public high school hockey programs, meaning players from multiple high schools may come together to form combined teams.
The top-five ranked teams in the MHSHL are currently held by Iowa-bases teams and one Nebraska-based team. Varsity head coach Tony Paoli intends to see his RoughRiders rise to the coveted top-spot by season’s end.
“This is a talented group of players who are still finding their way together,” said Paoli in a press release. “Each day we see improvement on the ice. Once they hit their stride, our team will be a difficult one to play against.”
The RoughRiders have already faced off against some of the more competitive teams in the league, including Sioux City, Waterloo and Quad City. The team split a pair of games against Sioux City in their opening weekend and have won two games against Quad City, one on the road and one at home in the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. The game against Waterloo on the road had the team coming up short, narrowly losing in the last minutes of the third period, 5-4.
The RoughRiders’ schedule stretches to March 1, with their next home game slated for Saturday, Dec. 14, against Dubuque with a start time of 7:00 p.m. The team is also at home Friday, Dec. 20, against Ames with an 8:00 p.m. start before hitting the road traveling to Kansas City Dec. 21-22
For Shaner, juggling practice, games and school hasn’t been too challenging.
“Practices are four nights a week, Monday through Thursday,” he said. “Monday, we have strength training then the rest of the week is on the ice. Practices normally start about 7:30 p.m. and go until 8:45. Fitting this into school is not too challenging, but sometimes I have to miss a day or two because there is a road game on a Friday night or something, but typically I’m on top of things and don’t struggle too much balancing school and hockey.”
For Shaner, the time commitment is nothing when you consider he’s doing something he truly loves.
“What I like most about hockey his just the brotherhood, and how connected you get with the team and the players,” he said. “My future aspirations for hockey is to play juniors or make it to a D-I college if possible. Anything to just play more hockey is what I dream of.
“Playing for a Big 10 school is my dream, too, and would be amazing if I could get there someday.”