Impressive performance; Kyle Shibley has made great strides since he

Impressive performance; Kyle Shibley has made great strides since he

Dave Buford Correspondent

Kyle Shibley of Coeur d’Alene knows opportunity when he sees it.

Shibley plays for the Kootenai County Colts, the North Idaho ice hockey team in the Northern Pacific Junior Hockey League. For his first year in the league, he’s made an impression – he has less experience than most players but has shown more improvement than most would imagine.

“He’s a humble kid that wants to be here and wants to get better,” said Brian Moon, head coach.

Moon said Shibley’s game has improved more than 90 percent since he started with the team. He added Shibley wouldn’t likely have made the team through tryouts, but the team was shorthanded early in the season and invited him to practice. When player shortages didn’t let up, Moon put him in a game and was impressed with his performance. He decided to keep Shibley on the roster and said he improves every time he’s on the ice.

“He’s one of the kids that has stepped up and has made some huge strides this year,” Moon said.

In addition, Shibley is the only player from Idaho to make the team. Most of his teammates have finished high school while he’s wrapping up his senior year at Lake City High School and taking two classes through North Idaho College.

Shibley said keeping up with the team often means an early- morning run around Tubbs Hill, a workout before school and practice after school.

“It’s a tough schedule, but I get my homework done,” Shibley said.

He plans to continue taking classes at NIC, but if an opportunity for a four-year school comes up through the sport, he’ll take it.

The league is a steppingstone between high school and college- level play, sometimes leading to scholarships, he said. But tryouts are tough, and local players are often overlooked for talent in other areas of the league.

Several of Shibley’s teammates are bunking up at host houses for the hockey season. Some were recruited from Arkansas, Michigan, Virginia and the Northwest to be part of the team. Shibley remembers three goal-scoring teammates from a previous team who tried out for the Colts, but none made the cut or any other teams in the area.

“When you play juniors, it’s because you want to go somewhere,” Shibley said.

While other players on the team started playing as toddlers, Shibley started playing hockey when he was 11. He played for area parks and recreation teams, but a knee injury from football took him off the ice during his sophomore year.

Last year, he went to a referee camp through the Spokane Chiefs and traded his time with a whistle for time on the team. Now, he said he’s earning his spot with each game and practice under his belt.

With the season is nearly wrapped up, he’s still thankful for getting the initial chance to play. Shibley said he’s a physical player and his biggest challenge is overcoming a recurring shoulder injury. He dislocated his shoulder 25 times this year and has surgery scheduled in March. He won’t be able to practice during the off-season, but he plans to continue with the sport and put up some strong numbers for the team.

Moon said Shibley’s upbeat and positive attitude often helps to motivate the team.

“You can tell he’s definitely a quality kid that’s been taught to work hard and try to do the right thing,” Moon said. He said more time on the ice has helped Shibley’s skating and puck-handling skills.

As a forward, he’s faced with most of the goal-scoring shots and goal defense. He works with other forwards and plays a more supportive role by checking opponents and making assists.

“He plays physically, puts up a good defense and doesn’t make any mistakes,” Moon said.

Moon plans to keep Shibley on the team next year. In a few more years, he anticipates Shibley will have a chance to move on to a higher level.

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