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Over the holiday break, Weber State University hockey player Dax Hobbs was one of 23 collegiate players in the country to participate on the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s All-Select team. The team of college all-stars traveled to Europe to face six teams in just eight days.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Hobbs said.
Other faces from Utah included Utah State University junior Cooper Limb and USU coach Jon Eccles. The team won five of its six games.
“The trip was awesome,” Limb said. “It was a great experience. It opened up my eyes a lot as to what life is like over there. It was definitely a good experience all around.”
The team left two days after Christmas and, after a long flight, began practice immediately.
“We got off the plane and we went straight to work,” Hobbs said. “I was kind of jet-lagged with the eight-hour time difference. We also had walking tours of the cities that we were in, so that took a lot out of us.”
Right away, the team faced a difficult challenge against a team from the Czech Republic. The American team won in a shootout. It also beat another Czech team 7-3.
“There were players on that team that had been drafted into the NHL and who had actually played in the AHL, a farm system for the NHL,” Eccles said. “It was a good strong team.”
Hobbs said he enjoyed playing against former NHL players and learning from them.
“I talked to some former NHL guys that we played against, and they complimented me on my game and told me that I was a good player,” he said. “They told me to use my speed more and to get my shot off a little bit quicker.”
After defeating a team from Germany, the team went on to route two teams from Slovenia. The scores in those games were 12-1 and 10-2.
“There wasn’t a bad hockey player on the team,” Limb said. “Everybody had a lot of skills, which made it very fun. We ran four lines the entire time. Everyone played. It didn’t really matter what power-play group was out there.”
Fatigue finally caught up to the team, as it lost in its final game to a Slovakian collegiate all-star team 3-2.
“If we had played them earlier in the series, maybe the third or fourth game, I believe we would have beaten them,” Eccles said. “But in the sixth game we were kind of running out of gas.”
The team started out slow and fell behind early, but a late push got it back into the game. However, it wasn’t enough.
“We won the two games before that by a combined score of 22-3,” Hobbs said. “So we kind of went in with the mindset that we could do the same thing to this team. But they were also a team of college all-stars. They took it to us early, and by the time we got focused and started playing, we couldn’t come back.”
Coming from WSU rival USU, Limb said it was easy to put the rivalry between the two schools aside.
“It was cool to go over there with Dax,” he said. “I’ve always known him (from) playing against him. I never really got to know him before at all. It was nice to spend time with him and to get to know him. I had a good time with him.”
Hobbs finished the tournament with six goals and 11 assists. He said the trip was a learning experience, not just about Europe but also about how he could improve as a player.
“I was nervous at first, because I was playing with some of the best players in the country. But we played well with each other. The biggest thing I learned was to have patience. Over there, they don’t play as physical, so I learned to be patient and to see the whole ice.”
The next ACHA All-Select team will be named in late 2015.