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Cross country travel becoming the norm for North Country hockey parents


MASSENA - Breakfast of champions took on a whole new meaning in a couple of homes in the Massena-Potsdam area this month when brothers and sisters both came home with state titles from their respective minor hockey tournaments.

But for at least two families all that success leads to some scheduling challenges when their children skate on the ice for national tournament play. They are, however, starting to get accustomed to working their way through those challenges.

Kirk Wilmshurst, Massena, and Tracy Green, Potsdam, both had to make some very difficult decisions last year - dilemmas that most parents would be envious of though.

In 2013, Mr. Wilmshurst’s daughter Emily, 16, and son Wyatt, 15, took home state championships for their respective hockey programs, leading to national competitions in different parts of the country during the same week.

Ms. Green was in Kirk’s shoes last year as well, as she had two children, Corson and Kelsey, prepping for their games in different parts of the country.

That same scenario will play out for the Greens and Wilmshursts again next week.

After wrapping up state titles earlier this month, all four teenagers will try to earn national championships again next week, with at least some family members in attendance.

Emily Wilmshurst is a member of the Potsdam Ice Storm 16U and also plays for her high school’s varsity team. The Ice Storm, coached by Mike Grant, defeated Monroe County on March 16 for the state championship and will head to Buffalo for nationals, beginning on Wednesday.

“I really didn’t think we would win states this year but toward the end we pulled it together and made it,” Emily said.

Wyatt meanwhile plays for the St. Lawrence Thunder 16U midgets and the state champion Massena Central boys’ hockey team. He earned his fourth straight minor hockey state title on March 16 by defeating Monroe County by a score of 7-2 and will travel to Reston, Va,. next week.

“Out of all of the teams I’ve played for, I think we have the best chance (of winning the championship) this year,” he said. “I kind of know what to expect now but once we get to the crossovers it definitely gets more exciting.”

Having two kids who have succeeded at the highest level of athletic competition can be exhilarating for a parent, but Kirk noted that with the excitement comes the tough choice of which games mom will go to and which games dad will attend.

“A year ago (Emily’s team) won (states) and went to San Jose, Calif., and they lost in the final game to Vermont. That was a heartbreaker, but this year they’re headed to Buffalo lucky for us. It could have been in Alaska or something but they’ll be playing there,” Kirk said.

“Last year I was in South Carolina with Wyatt and my wife was in California with Emily so that’s a $10,000 week. It’s nuts. These two groups of kids, and I would say Margaret’s too, they’re very lucky to have these opportunities. ... They’ve had lots of good coaching on these teams and they’ve been fortunate - not my wallet so much, but my kids have been fortunate.

“This year I’m going to Buffalo with the girls and my wife is going to Virginia with the boys. So we’ll be doing a switcheroo.”

In addition to Emily and Wyatt, Kirk and his wife, Amy, also have an 11-year-old daughter, Margaret,who recently won the state title with the Potsdam Ice Storm 12U team.

Tracy also has three hockey playing children in a very similar age range as the Wilmshursts. Corson is a freshman at Potsdam Central, Kelsey is a junior, and their younger sister Karley is 11.

Corson is a member of the St. Lawrence Thunder bantams 14U and will be going to New Jersey for nationals next week. On Friday, the entire team will be recognized at the New Jersey Devils vs. Washington Capitals game and will appear atn center ice before the game.

He said that he enjoys having two sisters who share his passion for hockey. “We usually go to each other’s games and stuff when we have the chance,” he said. “I think we’re going out on center ice and they’re introducing us. I am very excited for that.”

Kelsey on the other hand will be headed to Buffalo along with Emily Wilmshurst for play beginning Wednesday. She shares her brother’s sentiments in regards to having the common bond.

“It helps a lot when my brother is in competitive hockey as well. We’re really close because of that and we talk a lot about hockey together,” she said. “I go to most of my brother’s games and he goes to mine. We will be watching each other’s games online. I think a couple of the games might overlap but I’m not positive.”

Given the two different venues and overlapping schedules, Tracy noted that she will join her son in New Jersey, while her parents will go with Kelsey.

“My parents will be going to Kelsey’s games, and I will be watching hers online,” Tracy said. “It was very exciting and it worked out well because Corson’s (state playoff) games were one week before Kelsey’s so I was able to see both. Corson’s games were during the weekend of March 7-9 in Amherst. Kelsey’s were March 14-16 in Rochester.”

Tracy said that she was very grateful for all of her children having the chances to not only play a sport they love, but travel throughout the country doing so.

“I would like to thank the community for their support in helping these teams get to the national tournaments. They have been great throughout everything,” she said.

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