Summit’s Blaze Ebbinghaus carves a path for himself with the Rogue Valley Royals
They say good things usually come in pairs. That is exactly the case for Summit County hockey recently.
Following Cooper Pederson’s decision to sign with the Rogue Valley Royals, a U.S. Premier Hockey League team, recent Summit High School graduate Blaze Ebbinghaus decided to follow suit. The pair will now be playing in Medford, Oregon.
Pederson and Ebbinghaus grew up playing hockey together in Summit County. Ebbinghaus started playing the sport when he was 7 years old. Fast forward more than 11 years, and the Breckenridge native says he has now achieved a dream he couldn’t have fathomed as a first grader.
Ebbinghaus’s journey to the Rogue Valley Royals is strikingly similar to Pederson’s. Both former Summit Tigers teammates were recommended to Royals head coach Bobby Ruddle by longtime Summit resident Kory deKoevend.
“I got the opportunity a little while back,” Ebbinghaus said. “It was through coaches I played with prior to this and with help along the way.”
Ebbinghaus and Pederson have both been coached by deKoevend, who got to watch both of them grow up into the players they are today. Knowing Ruddle during his time as a coach with the Breckenridge Bolts, deKoevend thought both athletes would be a good fit for the Royals.
Most junior-level hockey players leave their hometowns for faraway towns across the U.S. and Canada, but for Ebbinghaus, his situation will be a bit different. Not only will Ebbinghaus have a familiar face in Pederson on the team, but he will also have Ruddle, who grew up in Breckenridge several years ago.
“It’s great to have Cooper with me because we have been good buddies all throughout high school,” Ebbinghaus said. “It’s nice to have someone there with you because it’s hard to move out on your own.”
Ebbinghaus was a fundamental piece for the Summit Tigers hockey team during the 2021-22 season. The defenseman not only delivered bruising hits to the opposing team, he also made the job easier for the Tigers’ goalie by readily clearing pucks from the scoring zone.
Ebbinghaus was also a dual threat, often advancing the puck from one end of the ice to the other, all by himself, to set up for a scoring play.
This past season, the Tigers finished with a record of 11-9-1 and made the playoffs for the first time since the 2019-20 season, when Ebbinghaus was a sophomore. The monumental season was one of the highlights of Ebbinghaus’ senior year and hockey career thus far.
“It was a good way to end it,” Ebbinghaus said. “It was a great season, and I am glad I got to play with all those boys I have been playing with for so long.”
One of Ebbinghaus’s fondest memories from his final season in green and white was when the team was able to beat the Steamboat Springs Sailors in the Tigers’ final regular season game. The go-ahead goal was scored in the final seconds of the game and solidified the Tigers’ spot in the playoffs.
It is thanks to his longtime teammates in Summit that Ebbinghaus has grown so fond of the game. Ebbinghaus’ love for the game of hockey began when he was able step back from the pure form of the sport and realize the game of hockey goes well beyond scoring goals or administering a well-timed poke check.
“There is so much more to the sport in general,” Ebbinghaus said. “Of course you get to go out and play hockey, but you also have a family around you. I have known the guys I have played with. It’s like we have grown up together.”
Realizing he didn’t want to go to college quite yet, Ebbinghaus set his sights on playing hockey at the junior-level upon graduating earlier this year. Ebbinghaus firmly believes there is more in store for him in the sport of hockey and that playing at the junior level could potentially open up doors to college or even professional-level hockey.
“It’s my first year in junior hockey, so going into it I am definitely going to be rattled because you are the new kid on the block,” Ebbinghaus said. “Junior hockey is a big step. There are a lot of different things. You have to expect the worst and the best at the same time.”
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