When Alex Trent of Columbia tried out last fall for the premier hockey team in the Baltimore-Washington area, the Little Capitals, he was one of the final cuts.
The coaches told him he was a good player, but that he needed to improve several areas of his game.
In September, Trent will try out for the AA-level team again. This time, Trent, 16, thinks his chances of making the squad are good, especially after participating in a weeklong regional 16-and-under hockey development camp at St. Cloud State University (Minn.) that finished last Saturday.
"I have a better chance to make the team than before, because I have more confidence in my play after coming back from camp," said Trent, a Glenelg Country High School junior.
Another local player, Toby Heusser, 16, of Dayton, participated in the camp.
"They are two of the most competitive players in the area," said Jerry Olson, vice president of the Southeastern Amateur Hockey Association. "The youngsters get the opportunity to participate in drills and games with the top players in the country for their age level. This is a high-tempo camp where the caliber of play is at least a full level higher that what the kids are used to in the area."
Trent, Heusser and 14 others were chosen from about 80 metropolitan area players to attend development camps in Minnesota and New York.
Trent (50 goals, 29 assists) and Heusser (62 goals, 30 assists) were teammates and standout performers for the Bantam A (age 14-15) of the Howard County Youth hockey program in Columbia last season.
A typical day at the camp involved two hours on the ice, an hour of classroom instruction, and an hour of off-the-ice activity.
The two hours on the ice are divided up into games, team drills and individual skill development, with an emphasis on teamwork.
"I think the camp may have moved me a step forward," Trent said. "They wanted everybody to be a team player. They were working on ways for everybody to be in sync with each other."
At the camp, Heusser and Trent competed against future pros and Olympic hockey players, said Don Aho, camp director. One 16-year-old player even signed a $40,000 contract last week to play for the New Market Royals of the Ontario Hockey League.
"They came away better players because they are exposed to some of the best college coaches in the country," Aho said. "They can evaluate themselves now. The camp gives them an idea of what their strengths and weaknesses are."
Trent learned to check opposing players more aggressively. "If you wanted to get the puck, you would have to knock them off it," Trent said. "You couldn't just steal the puck from these players."
With the improved skills and confidence gained from the camp, these two young hockey players have higher hopes of making the Little Capitals.