Sioux Falls, South Dakota (WQOW) -- Ty Emberson's former team at Eau Claire Memorial just began its season with a pair of games, Friday and Saturday. Sunday marked the 22nd game Emberson has played this season with his new team...the USA National Development 17-and-under team.
"This adjustment has been big for me, but it's obviously made me a better player, playing against bigger, stronger, and faster players," says Emberson, a University of Wisconsin hockey recruit, "so I just think everyone on the team is just getting better as the season goes on."
And it's not just the number of games, it's matchups against older, stronger players in the United States Hockey League.
"It's a tough row to hoe," says Team USA U17 head coach Danton Cole, "and what these guys have to do, what they have to go through, they continually have to pick themselves up because of they we we train and the way we challenge them, because it's really, really hard, you know, Ty's done a great job with that, he's a good leader, he's real positive, he just keeps working, keeps smiling, he's a happy warrior."
Another big challenge of playing at this level is the travel. The US team is based in Plymouth, Michigan, just outside of Detroit. Saturday night, the U17 team played a game in Omaha. Sunday, 186 miles away, they are playing an afternoon game in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
"It's definitely something to get used to" Emberson says, "back in Eau Claire we would have just games and the local stuff, it's obviously an adjustment to go cross country like this, but it's what we do.to get better and it's just the price to pay."
With a 6-1 loss at Sioux Falls, the USA U17 team dropped to 7-15 on the season, but it's important to remember that this is the US National team development program....and developing talent takes time.
"Boy, he does a lot of things well" says Cole, "he's really calm out there, you know, he settles things down, he has a good feel for what's going on, not that he doesn't do things hard and all that, but defensively he doesn't overreact, offensively, he makes nice, smart reads, so he has a good maturity about him."
"I think seeing the passes and figuring out what I"m doing with the puck before it gets to me," says Emberson, "people are on you so fast in this league so it's tough."
After the game in Sioux Falls, the USA U17 team travels by bus back to Plymouth, Michigan. This weekend, the U17's travel to Fairbanks, Alaska. Next month, they'll play in an international tournament in Switzerland. Their season runs through early April.