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Ice Hockey Athletes Shoot for Olympic Gold

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS -- Team USA made its mark on the ice at the Winter Games in Sochi and some local ice hockey athletes are hoping to one day do the same.
NORTHWEST ARKANSAS -- Team USA made its mark on the ice at the Winter Games in Sochi and some local ice hockey athletes are hoping to one day do the same.

"There's a lot of action in the whole sport... It's not really about the goals, it's just about having fun," said 11-year-old Jacob Valentini.

They pile on layers of padding, lace up their skates, strap on hard helmets and balance on blades all while fighting to put a puck in the net.

"It's a really fun and fast paced game... For passing the puck we just call for the puck. It doesn't really matter what you say you just make some noise," said 13-year-old Nick Valentini.

"The sport of ice hockey is the greatest sport there is... Skating alone is real fun, but then you throw in there the hand-eye coordination of passing the puck, shooting the puck," said Coach Mike Parker.

The Northwest Arkansas Hockey Association (NWAHA) is a non-profit organization scoring goals with ice hockey athletes.

"Our youngest player is actually 3 years old and we go right up to 18... We try to foster good young men and women to really appreciate it and live up to the spirit of the Olympics... You see athletes who have been spending 17, 18 years of their life to perfect their sport for that one shot, that one chance... If it inspires 100 new kids to pick up a sport, whether it be curling, figure skating or ice hockey, then the Olympics have served their purpose," said Vince Brick, NWAHA President.

Some of the kids have been swinging a stick for more than a decade. With each new move, they are that much closer to a gold medal.

"I'd love to pursue the Olympics, yeah... It'd be a really good experience... It'd be like an overwhelming, just wow," said 15-year-old Jake Stimmeo.

"It's pretty much the sport that I've always wanted to play," said 10-year-old Colin Hicks.

But playing on a frozen field can be brutal.

"I'm like a brick wall when it comes to this so... High schoolers trying to dangle around me, they got nothing man. They're on the ice... Dangle is just like your tricks, typical toe drags, between the legs, kick it with your skate," said 17-year-old Nace Remfrey.

"Being the goalie, I take the puck everywhere... Puck to the neck once... It bruised, yeah, it swelled," said Stimmeo.

After the swelling goes down, the teammates stick around.

"I met my best friend playing hockey... Awesome coaching," said Remfrey.

"I've coached some of these kids since they were 5 years old and just to watch them develop and grow, they're super kids, and boy, can they compete," said Coach Parker.

So as the Winter Games heat up the ice, natural rivalry might one day send these Northwest Arkansas athletes to the Olympics.

"When I reflect on my youth and I think of some of the best times I had, it was growing up with my teammates... Traveling to games and the strong sense of comradery and winning together, losing together... I'm living out my dream by helping others to reach their dream... We got some great 4 year olds that Canada and Russia and Sweden better be looking out for," said Brick.

Click here to see Marissa Kargas debut her ice hockey skills!



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