Two Panthers skate with future of Rugby hockey in mind
Neither Ethan Clements nor Shawn Schaan has thought twice about continuing hockey despite their hometown of Rugby not having its own high school team.
The starting junior goaltender and starting sophomore defenseman, respectively, are the only two Panthers on the Bottineau-Rugby Braves co-op this season. They say the getting-home-late routine is less than ideal, but years of traveling close to an hour or more to play is paying off.
“There’s truly no downsides,” said Clements, a first-year starter in net. “I think I’ve excelled more going up there. I’ve met new friends and got more ice time.”
Schaan agreed and said he hopes the solid numbers in the Rugby Ice Hawks youth program will mean an ever-increasing Rugby presence at the prep level.
“I’d tell (the younger kids) it’s worth it because in the end you get to make more friends and it’s a good learning experience,” Schaan said.
Attribute part of their commitment to hockey in a basketball-crazy town to the inclusive environment fostered by longtime Bottineau coach David Hoff.
Despite having only two RHS students – two fewer than last season – Hoff’s team wore their black sweaters with orange RHS stitched to the fronts for the season opener at Devils Lake on Nov. 25. The team traditionally wears purple and white. The Braves, which include 16 players from Bottineau and four from Rolette, practices at least once a week in Rugby.
“There has to be a sense of sharing if you want to grow the sport in all communities,” Hoff said. “If (Rolette) got ice, we’d practice there too and get another set of jerseys, we joke. We’d get maroon jerseys.
“I think even as far as this year, there’s a good number of freshman, Rolette is all underclassmen. Hopefully, if you’re a kid in Rugby, they’ll see the opportunity.”
The black jerseys debuted on Senior Night last season, a final home game for Bottineau seniors and Rugby’s Nigel Hageness and Nick Schaan at Al Wentz Arena in Rugby.
This year’s team is still looking for leaders to emerge on the ice behind senior star forward Luke Amsbaugh. Clements and Schaan are in position to be leaders now and beyond this season. They’re not just the guys on the team from Rugby, five years into the co-op.
“They’re both easy to get along with and seem to fit right in,” Hoff said.
Clements learned some lessons in his first start, a 9-5 loss to the Firebirds. He gave up five goals in the first period, but settled down late and finished with 45 saves.
“I just have to relax a little more,” Clements said. “It’s a lot faster paced.”
Schaan is following in big shoes left by graduated defensemen Hageness and Andrew Hill. Both players know much is to be learned this year after losing four seniors including the defenseman and Mr. Hockey Harrison Aide, the state’s all-time leader in points. Clements and Schaan are used to gaining experience together.
“Shawn got me into (hockey) in kindergarten,” Clements said. “I’ve been playing with him since. We get along pretty good and been doing it as long as I can remember.”
The duo expects bigger groups of Rugby disciples representing orange and black in the future.
“There’s a lot of younger kids – mites, mini mites,” Schaan said. “I’m hearing more about it.”
The Braves hosted Jamestown on Friday and Dickinson visits at 3:15 p.m. today.