Steamboat’s Peyton Tritz wins junior hockey title with Richmond team
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs High School graduate Peyton Tritz’s first year as a junior league hockey player went better than expected.
Tritz, a former hockey team goaltender for the Sailors, moved to Richmond, Virginia, to play for the Richmond Generals’ elite team in the United States Premier Hockey League.
In his first year on the team, Tritz became a part of history, aiding in the Generals’ first-ever Elite National Championship title in Boston on March 11, where the Generals defeated the Tampa Bay Juniors 5-2. He finished the season with a 2.26 goals-against average through 479 minutes of play.
“Probably the greatest experience of my life,” Tritz said. “Just the excitement of it all — hard to believe how big of a scale just coming from a small town in Steamboat Springs and to go on to win a national championship in junior hockey was amazing.”
Tritz was a part of a large contingent of Colorado hockey players playing for the Richmond Generals. One fifth of the Richmond Generals players on both the premier and elite teams are from Colorado.
“There’s a lot of good hockey players in Colorado,” Generals head coach R.C. Lyke said. “Most importantly, we’ve had a lot of success with Colorado players in our eight-year history.”
That history includes four regular season championships, three playoff conference championships and, now, one national championship.
Tritz was on a team that included two other players from smaller mountain towns, including Ben Carlson from Breckenridge and Crested Butte’s Colton Crittendon. His best friend on the team, Alex Walsh, played against Tritz during Walsh’s senior year at Chaparral High School in Parker and was a former teammate of Tritz’s on Team Colorado.
“We played against each other and hated each other, and we’re on the same team, and we were best friends,” Walsh said. ” I think out here in Colorado we don’t get as much exposure to as many teams, and then once you get out there, we’re all good hockey players, and we kind of branch out and start ending up on the same team.”
It helped having familiar faces on the team when Tritz was trying to get used to the rigor of junior league hockey. Every morning, the team spends two hours on the ice, then, two to three days a week, they’ll go to the gym for additional strength and conditioning.
Mondays are days off for the hockey players, where they will rest after a weekend of competition but also participate in yoga to work on stability and flexibility. The team also has spin classes on Tuesdays to help work the soreness out of their muscles while also getting in endurance conditioning.
“It’s a rough sport when you get into juniors,” Tritz said. “You’ve got to keep your body stretched because it’s a different pace, and it definitely surprises you when you first start.”
Tritz missed five weeks out of the season due to injury. He pulled his groin, then rolled an ankle, spraining its ligaments. It was part of the learning process of being a junior league hockey player.
It’s a full-time job, and even when he was off the ice, he tried to learn what he could from Ryan Creenan, the starting goaltender.
“The biggest thing was Peyton has all the tools and the skills to be a very high-level goaltender,” Lyke said. “This season, what was really big for him, was learning how to be consistent with his work ethic and training, as well as working as a young man.
“He obviously knows he’s a big tall kid — 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4 — controls his rebounds well; limit shooters second chance opportunities,” Lyke added.
In addition, Tritz is a very quiet, composed athlete, which provided a stabilizing force in the net.
Off the ice, Tritz learned what it was like to be a part of a new community. In between practices and video sessions, the Generals maintained a busy schedule of volunteering with the youth hockey league, Habitat for Humanity and other charitable organizations.
It’s a lifestyle that helps bond a team of players from all over the country in a short period of time to play and ultimately win a national title.
The Generals have a highly-esteemed program in place with a track record of advancing players to the next level, including sending 155 college commitments to NCAA Division I and Division II programs as well as collegiate club hockey since its inception eight years ago. That puts the Generals within the top 1 percent of junior hockey for college commitments. In addition, 106 players have advanced to the next level of junior hockey, more than any junior hockey team in the country.
As an elite member of the Generals, Tritz can work toward advancement to the Generals’ premier team, which usually has players ages 19 to 20, while elite has 16 to 18 year olds. From there, he hopes he can play in college.
“It’s a great experience if you aren’t ready for college yet,” Tritz said. “You mature a lot over a year of living on your own.”
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