SIOUX CITY | Tegan Rodriguez found her passion on the ice and now that is going to carry her all the way to college, fulfilling a childhood dream.
The North senior will lace up her skates for possibly the final time in her high school career when her St. Louis Jr. Lady Blues 19U team skates this weekend in the Central District Tournament at the Ralston Ice Arena in Nebraska.
The Lady Blues need wins on Saturday and Sunday to secure a berth in the USA Hockey Tier I 19U National Championships that will take place March 31-April 4 at the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine, Minnesota.
Rodriguez, who will play collegiately at Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter (Minn.) next season, gained approval of parents Joe and Patricia Rodriguez to play hockey while in the third grade.
“They let me do it and I actually loved it and I’ve been doing it ever since,” said Rodriguez. “Without them I would not have been able to play. The money they put into it, the time they put into it, I don’t know what I would do without them.”
After skating in Sioux City through eighth grade, Rodriguez joined the Lady Blues as a freshman and this season has scored five goals and added eight assists from her left wing position.
“On this team I would say I am a playmaker, I try to look for the best passing option,” said Rodriguez. “I try to create opportunities to score for my team to win. I don’t care about my stats, I care about if we win the game or not.”
Rodriguez commutes to practices in Omaha three times a week while the Lady Blues team has made plenty of road trips to Canada, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota and other states during a 42-game season.
The road trips have allowed Rodriguez to understand how to balance her time between athletics and academics. It has gotten better through the years though she still finds it hard to accept that she misses out on some social activities with her friends.
“As the years went by I learned how to balance using my time wisely,” said Rodriguez. “When I'm at school in class I don’t mess around I want to get my homework done right away because I don’t have time to do it later. I learned it’s hard for me to figure out how to get all my friends things in and still practice.”
The decision to play hockey and ultimately sticking with it over other sports has led to her opportunity not only with the Blues but an upcoming chance of playing college hockey.
“I think that it’s the best thing I could ever done for myself, I have learned so much through playing hockey,” said Rodriguez.
Gustavus Adolphus is an NCAA Division III school that plays in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Mike Carroll has been head women’s ice hockey coach for the Gusties for the last 17 seasons.
Rodriguez took a few college visits before making the final decision on Gustavus Adolphus.
“My main deciding factor was do I want to go to school and play college hockey where 100 percent everything is about hockey, or do I want to go get an education and play hockey,” she said. “For me the deciding factor was I can’t make a career off playing hockey so I need to focus on my education before sports, even though I really enjoy it.
“I wish it wasn’t like that but in the end I need to get my education so that was my deciding factor.”