Albert brings leadership perspective to Steamboat Wranglers on, off the ice
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Junior hockey players tend to take the roads more traveled, and there’s no guarantee they’ll pursue hockey at the next level.
Avery Albert, 20, knows this very well. He’s been playing junior hockey since he was 15, making this his fifth year in the league. But that’s not always the case.
“He has the size and stature to be able to do that. When I was 15, I wasn’t big enough to be able to compete with these guys,” Steamboat Wrangler head coach Ryan Dingle said. “It’s something very special that not very many people get to do, but there’s the availability to be able to do that.”
Albert spent two years with the Colorado Roughriders in Boulder and one year with Colorado Evolution in Denver. From there, he went to the Seaforth Generals in Ontario, Canada, before returning to the Roughriders for a year and landing with the Steamboat Wranglers.
“Every experience is different with every team. Comes from growing up and maturing,” Albert said. “It’s being able to listen and change. What I’ve taken from it is learning how to grow up by yourself and learning how to take care of yourself and others. That goes for on and off the ice.”
Dingle identified Albert as a potential leader from the recruiting process, based on his long resume and stats. Albert has played in the Western States Hockey League, so he knows what it takes to compete at this level, while the Wranglers, as a team are new to a higher level of play.
But it’s his maturity that stands out. Albert hopes to pursue hockey at the semipro or collegiate level, but he’s already found what’s important in life off the ice.
Two years ago, Albert’s dad collapsed with a ventricular fibrillation, a life-threatening heart rhythm that results in a rapid, inadequate heartbeat.
Albert and his mother instantly started performing CPR while his brother called 911.
“I observed and watched the EMT as they helped my dad,” Albert said. “He woke up the next morning in IC. It was a freak thing he survived. It’s a huge thing when the paramedics and firefighters are on their job. It’s not just one person saving their life; it’s a community.
“It’s something I could see myself doing in 20 years.”
Albert rode along with firefighters and paramedics in the Denver-area this past summer. Soon, he plans to enroll in Red Rocks Community College to get his certification. He hopes to start training next summer before continuing his hockey career wherever it takes him.
“I would like to go overseas and play semipro, but you really gotta sit down and look at your life, and it’s a reality check. How far do you think you’re going to go?” Albert said. “I think I and a lot of boys on the ice have the opportunity to go far, but it’s just how much work you’re willing to put in to get there.”
The Wranglers boast a 2-12-1 record — one game was an overtime victory over the Wichita Thunder, which means it’s not counted as a regulation win.
It’s not what they had hoped, but the Wranglers faced two of the top teams in the league right out of the gates: the Utah Outliers and Ogden Mustangs. Three additional losses came from a home series against the Dallas Snipers, where Albert admits the team underestimated its opponent based on a 5-6 record.
“I’m not making excuses for our record, but we have brought in seven new players since those first six losses,” Dingle said. “I really think we can be a competitive team on a nightly basis.”
Dingle saw spurts of that competitive edge against Ogden, the only remaining undefeated team in the league. The Wranglers lost to them by a margin of 7-2, 5-2 and 5-1, but Dingle said they looked like they belonged on the same ice.
Albert has tried to keep the morale steady on the Wranglers’ team.
“All you can do is look back and see where you can improve,” Albert said. “You don’t want to dwell on it too much. It’s a 52-game season, and it’s 12 losses.”
The 7-6 overtime victory against the Wichita Thunder on Oct. 21 remains a distant, but favorite memory for both. The Wranglers came back from a 3-goal deficit with two minutes left to send the two teams into overtime. Dingle had never seen anything like it.
The Wranglers will enter a series against the Cheyenne Stampede — which has yet to win a game this season — but unlike what happened in Dallas, the Wranglers are hoping to play with the intensity they’ve had against Ogden and Wichita to notch wins on their home ice.
“The team is ready to go, and we’re ready to perform for the community,” Albert said. “We might have let them down, but we are here to show them that we’re here to stay. And we want to give them a show and bring them a championship, hopefully, this season.”
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