Taylor Vickerman of Kennewick is taking his hockey game to another level — and another country.
Vickerman, 16, was one of 20 players from last month’s USA Hockey Select 16 Player Development Camp in Rochester, N.Y., to be selected to Team USA for this week’s U-17 Five Nations Tournament in the Czech Republic.
“I’m really excited,” Vickerman said. “They told me at the end of the development camp that I had been selected. That was nice. You have to go to the national camp to get exposure, and it helps to play on teams that go to tournaments. I love the game. I eat and sleep hockey.”
Vickerman left July 31 to join the rest of Team USA in Washington, D.C. After a day of practice, they were off to the Czech Republic.
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Team USA plays Germany today, Switzerland on Thursday and the Czech Republic on Friday before finishing against Slovakia on Saturday.
Team USA, which has won the last two Five Nations titles, consists of 11 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies. Vickerman, a forward, is the only player from the West Coast.
Joining him on the team is Blake Siebenaler from Fort Wayne, Ind. They played together for the Cleveland Barons Minor Midget team last season.
“It will be fun to have someone there I know,” Vickerman said. “I know the Euro teams are more skilled rather than hitting and using their speed. My game is take the puck to the net, gritty and grinding. The refs are soft. I will probably get more penalties than I usually do. I will have to play smart.”
Picked by Vancouver in the sixth round of the 2011 Western Hockey League bantam draft, Vickerman said the Giants have been keeping tabs on him.
“(Coach) Don Hay called me a couple of days ago and congratulated me,” he said. “Told me he was looking forward to seeing me at camp this fall.”
Though this is Vickerman’s first trip to Europe, he played away from home last season in Cleveland, where he had 13 goals and 28 assists for the Barons.
“You learn to live on your own,” Vickerman said. “You get to manage your money, live as an adult and be more independent.”
And the level of hockey was more competitive than he would have gotten in the Tri-Cities.
“It was a different style of hockey,” Vickerman said. “The coaching was great. I learned to balance school and hockey, how to work out and how to eat right.”
Vickerman’s parents, Lance and Kirsten, left Saturday for the Czech Republic. They will have time for a little sightseeing before watching their son play.
“They have made it pretty clear that they’d like us at the games, but the players don’t stay with their parents or hang out with their parents,” Lance said. “We are in separate hotels. This is our first time overseas, and hopefully we don’t run into any snags. That would be stressful.”
The Vickermans, who will celebrate their 19th wedding anniversary Tuesday, said they had planned to take a cruise for their 20th, but this trip will replace that one.
With the high cost of travel, the Vickermans left their three youngest children — Brayden, 13, Hayleigh, 7, and Maylynn, 5 — to be spoiled by their grandparents.
“We are pretty fortunate to have both sets of grandparents live here,” Lance said. “We are totally blessed in that regard. They are always willing to take them.”