Monday, April 21, 2014 – at Crystal Palace roller rink, Las Vegas
By Lee Samuels
Las Vegas – Micah Sanford was at the point, directing traffic as he always does when it’s powerplay time.
Nick Robone was at right wing, Shawn Pearson on the left side, Billy Tufano was down low creating problems for goalie Terry Martin. The puck went to the right, back to center, to the left and suddenly Pearson rifled a shot and – bam – the puck went into the net.
Just like old times here at Crystal Palace on North Rancho Drive.
The Little House of Champions.
It was late-night practice time for the Las Vegas Tour Rebels who are taking their game to a NARCh Pro Qualifier in Irvine, California this weekend. There are two roller games on Friday night starting with the Mission/Bauer Raiders in the first game, then comes Revision Vanquish. Nothing easy because in NARCh Pro, as Micah was saying last night, the best players in roller are in this division.
“Control the puck…play smart…score 3 goals…we should win the games,” Micah said.
Sam Braniff, who was a star goal scorer for the UNLV ice team this past winter, was on the floor skating hard, taking shots from all kinds of angles.
It was Nick Robone who knew all about Sam’s roller background. Robone contacted him a few months ago when it was obvious UNLV’s ice team was not going to qualify for the Western Regionals.
“Our UNLV roller team was about to go into our Regionals, then the U.S. Nationals and I told Sam ‘…with one more player, like you, I think we can make a run at a national championship.’
So Sam played for the UNLV roller team which did make a huge run, getting into the Final 4 a few weeks ago. He played with fire and grit, pounded a few fancy scorers with nasty ‘rubouts’ against the boards, and then was asked to skate for the Tour Rebels pro roller team.
“I first played roller at the age of five on a blackstop at a middle school in Temecula,” Sam said last night. “Then I played for the Tomahawks and went into the Grizzlies roller program. So I’ve been doing this for awhile.”
But Sam, 26, is the rookie on this team.
That means he fills the water bottles on game nights.
Rebels goalie Terry Martin is from Canada, growing up in the shadows of the arena where the Edmonton Oilers play their home games. He has always been an Oilers fan and while growing up played goalie in ice and roller games. By the time he was 14, he was a star roller goalie. Two years ago he googled ‘best college roller team‘ and UNLV popped up on his screen. Seriously. He called coach Curt Weiman, took a flight to meet him, like what he heard, joined the college team.
Now he is in deep, playing goalie in NARCh Pro for Las Vegas.
His Reebok goalie pads are white with red trim.
Actually, they are Edmonton Oilers pads.
“Once a year the Oilers sell used equipment in the arena. Terry is tall, about 6’3,” so we need to find the kind which work best for him,” said his father Jim. He was at the rink drinking a black coffee with one sugar. His wife Brenda sipped hot tea. They had that Canadian look about them.
And the red trim on the goalie pads?
“Red duct tape,” said Jim. “Terry does that fancy design on his pads himself.”
And Terry’s red goalie shirt?
“Oilers, with the sleeves cut off,” said Dad.
And if you hear music coming from Terry’s hotel room, it’s either his guitar or he’s playing the drums.
Billy Tufano, who turns 30 on Saturday, plays because he wants to play. “I play smarter now,” he said. “On the powerplay I get deep and we try to do some back-door stuff. I even try to work around and get behind the goalie, maybe tip something in.”
His eyes lit up.
He said he couldn’t wait to get to Irvine.
The hunger to win still burns, he said.
The Tamura brothers – Adam and Andrew – flashed about the rink. Adam said his younger brother “is the better Tamura.”… Robbie Silvernail was there, trying to help the Rebels prepare for the big games…..Shawn Pearson had his playoff face already on high beam…Chris Raveling, who has played with each and every Rebels player in big roller games, said Micah Sanford is “...focused and determined on the rink….very strong on the puck..quick for his size…has good body control.”
Oh, and Micah can still blast the puck into the net too.
He is, and always will be, the scoreking in Las Vegas.