When it comes to the embodiment of a potential CPIHL Justin Yingling Memorial Award winner, there are not too many who fit the bill as much as Lower Dauphin Falcons’ Captain Eric West.
West has been playing hockey since he was 9, and while that seems like a late start for someone to pick up the pads and skates, that is a challenge West was not afraid of. In fact, he decided to step into the most difficult position in all of hockey: goalie.
Not only has West stepped into that role either, but he has stepped into that role with excellence. According to the Falcons’ coaching staff, “He has grown to become one of the most important pillars of our organization both on and off the ice.”
At this point you may have realized something unique about West too.
Remember how we mentioned that he is Lower Dauphin’s captain? What about the fact that he is a goalie? Well, typically these two roles do not go hand-in-hand, but West is not your atypical captain or goalie.
He is a great leader to say the least, but has to lead the team from a different perspective than almost any other captain on a hockey team in the world.
“There are multiple reasons why he’s the captain of our team,” his coaches stated. “Most say it’s weird to have a goalie wear the ‘C,’ but it’s the right answer. Eric’s just a kid that goes about his business the right way. He straps on his work boots and goes to work for every practice and every game.”
West has been doing this exact thing for Lower Dauphin hockey squads ever since he entered their lineup in fifth grade. He has made sacrifices day in and day out for the good of the team, and he has completely embraced what Lower Dauphin Falcon hockey is all about.
West is full of grit and determination, and the way he has led his teams for the past nine years has been nothing short of phenomenal. He embodies leadership and he embodies what the Yingling Award is all about.
“He leads by example through his endless heart and stubbornness to never give up on a play and his willingness to compete, and demands his teammates and coaches do the same,” his coaches said. “He keeps us all accountable. We hope that when he is done with college, he comes back and continues to mentor our kids and coaches for the blue and white.”
It is this type of stubbornness that helped get West to where he is at as well. In fact, he is so stubborn – and persistent – that he bugged his parents to allow him to play both school hockey and travel hockey games. Anyone who has been in the junior hockey world in any capacity knows playing for one team is hectic enough, but fitting two teams onto your schedule and getting your parents to take you around takes a lot of heart and dedication.
And that’s just who West is. He never backs down from a challenge, and this is seen all across the board from his schooling to practice to his in-game play. He does everything he can to be the best goalie around, and he never shies away from hard work.
“As Eric has grown and matured, we have seen his game grow as well as his personality,” his coaches said. “He’s no longer the quiet kid that lets the game go by. He’s grown into a confident young leader who isn’t afraid to speak his mind and holds himself, his teammates and his coaches accountable.”
And it is not that West does his coaches’ jobs for them, but they will all tell you he sees the game differently than they do and he brings so much to the table in terms of helping the team improve. So much so that he has expressed interest in coaching and is even a student coach right now.
West is helping the next generation of goalies and players learn how to play hockey, and he is even coaching up some adults. He wants to use his talents and abilities for good in terms of helping others grow as players, and that is something you do not see every day.
West brings a never-say-die attitude to the table day in and day out, both as a coach and as a player, and he even kept Lower Dauphin near the top of the standings all year. He learned from his multiple 60-plus shot games he faced during their rebuilding year last year, and his leadership skills helped him stay confident and never get mad at the team.
In fact, he is such a “workhorse” and “backbone” that he faced 556 shots in 13 games this year, and his save percentage is 0.941.
There is no doubt in any of West’s coaches’ or teammates’ minds that he is the ultimate teammate, and they are all grateful to have learned from him over the years as well as getting to call him their Falcon teammate. He is deserving of being one of the three finalists for the Yingling Award, and they all know he will always consider his nomination an honor and a privilege.
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