Evans City resident Ramage chasing dream with junior league hockey team
By chronological age, Tristan Ramage, 17, is a boy. By physical appearance, well, listen to his most recent coach.
“He's got a man's body,” Pittsburgh Viper Stars U18 AAA coach Dave Kosick says.
Which is good, because in less than one year's time, Ramage very well might jump from a decidedly boys hockey league to one that is very much for men.
Ramage, an Evans City resident who recently finished his junior year at Central Catholic, was selected by the Johnstown Tomahawks in the North American Hockey League Entry Draft earlier this month. If he makes the team for the upcoming season, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Ramage will go from playing U16 hockey as recently as this past winter to playing in what is considered the nation's No. 2 junior hockey league.
Junior hockey is made up of players as old as 20, and the level of competition is such that many of those playing it are recruited by Division I college programs.
Kosick said Ramage is still a youngster, only 16 during the past season. “But physically, he's mature, and it shows on the ice. He carries himself in a manner that junior teams like.”
Ramage, a defenseman, played for the Viper Stars' U16 team during the 2011-12 season and for roughly the first half of this past season before being called up to the U18 team.
“He made a nice, smooth transition from U16 to U18 to league all-star,” Kosick said.
Ramage posted 30 points in 48 games for the Viper Stars, earning an invite to the North American Prospects Hockey League's Top Prospects tournament.
“The U16 level this year wasn't very challenging, but moving up to U18s, it was a lot faster and the players were bigger and stronger,” Ramage said. “It took a while to get used to, but once I became adapted to the level of speed and everything, things really started to come easy to me, and it just worked out.”
As big as the jump is between U16 and U18 AAA, the leap to Tier II junior hockey is almost assuredly even more daunting.
The Tomahawks had an open tryout camp this weekend, and Ramage intended on attending. Late next month, the team will hold camp. A cutdown follows in advance of season training camp in early fall before the final roster is set. The Tomahawks will hold Ramage's NAHL rights even if they determine he could use another year of seasoning at the NAPHL level with the Viper Stars.
If he makes the Tomahawks, Ramage will stay with a host family in Johnstown while playing a 60-game schedule for the Eastern-most team in a league that stretches into Caifornia, Washington state and Alaska.
“Johnstown reached out and said, ‘We like this kid. We think the potential is there,'” Kosick said. “Whether that potential comes out now or comes out next season is yet to be determined, quite honestly, by him.
“Right now he's shown he belongs on the ice. He's stepped forward, attracted quite a bit of interest and has gotten a chance to play for the hometown team. I can see him doing well. He's a kid we think has high-end potential. He has the tools to play any type of game you ask him to — and he's a good kid, very bright and a student of the game.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.