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Lusby native William Rohleder has made some sacrifices to pursue his dream of playing professional ice hockey.

Rohleder, who has played goalie for several teams in the United States and Canada, will play with Division III Aurora (Ill.) University this season in an attempt to further his career.

“Playing hockey in college makes me more desirable to not only the minor leagues and Europe but also the pro leagues,” Rohleder said of his decision to attend college and not accept four offers he had to play overseas. “You have more options once you have that college experience.”

He spent last season with the Bloomington Jr. (Ill.) Blaze of the Midwest Junior Hockey League.

The decision to play in college was one of the easier ones the now 20-year-old has had to make.

Rohleder was a rising goalie, but the lack of ice hockey facilities in Southern Maryland was taking its toll on the Patuxent High School student. After school let out, Rohleder would spend three hours on homework, head 90 miles to play for the Laurel-based Tri-City Eagles and return home close to midnight.

“It was difficult, especially since my parents always told me grades came first,” said Rohleder, who needed to maintain a GPA of 3.0 to keep playing. He pushed himself to maintain a 3.5 and later graduated high school with a 3.7.

That daily grind drove Rohleder and his father, Keith, to think that maybe a move north into hockey-rich country might be in order.

“We both figured if I wanted to do anything [career-wise] I couldn’t stay in Maryland just because hockey wasn’t big enough,” said Rohleder, who would stay with an aunt and attend Tonowanda (N.Y.) High School, just north of Buffalo. “My mother [Trish] was not very happy with my father, she wasn’t very happy with the whole idea of me moving away but they were both extremely supportive. [But it also] meant giving up time with my family. I was basically starting all over.”

So the 15-year-old moved north following his junior year at Patuxent.

“I was responsible for myself,” he said. “It was like moving out of the house and going to college, but I was still in high school. It took a lot of commitment.”

The 5-foot-11, 158-pounder has played for the Ontario-based Manitoulin Islanders, North Bay Trappers and Powassan Dragons and even had a 14-day stint with the Sioux Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League. He’s also suited up for the Minnesota-based Alexandria Blizzard and Ohio’s Toledo Cherokee.

Last season with the Blaze, Rohleder appeared in 21 games and was 9-6 with a 4.65 goals-against average.

“Will has a very high hockey IQ especially as a goaltender,” Aurora Coach Zac Pearson said in a news release on the school’s website. “As a coach, I never have to tell him what he did wrong because he not only knows what it was [he did wrong] but was already working on how to fix the problem.”

At Aurora, Rohleder will rotate with four other goalies between the varsity and junior varsity teams.

“If I get any wind of a professional team asking me to come out,” Rohleder said, his voice trailing off. “I just enjoy it, the competitiveness, the way the team is like a family. It’s such a different world outside of any sport. I would love to play forever if I could. No [regrets], not at all. I would do it all over again.”

MICHAEL REID



The next level

Some Southern Marylanders currently playing ice hockey at the collegiate level:

Alex Brunstrom (Huntingtown): Towson Ben Camilletti (Huntingtown): West Virginia Dylan Higgins (La Plata): Kentucky Connor Keelan (La Plata): James Madison Mathew Malecki (Huntingtown): George Washington T.J. Munns (St. Mary’s Ryken): Mount St. Mary’s Matt Scott (St. Mary’s Ryken): Christopher Newport