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Hall excels on eastern ice

Former Placer athlete pursues preparatory hockey at New England's Tilton School
By: Eric J. Gourley, Journal Sports Writer
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It took Austin Hall more than a few months to get used to the changes in climate and culture. These days, Hall couldn’t be happier with a cross-country move that is allowing him to chase his hockey dreams. The former Placer High tennis player moved to New Hampshire in September to attend Tilton School, a college prep institution with a stellar ice hockey program. “It’s definitely been different,” Hall said. “It’s been good moving across the country. The people are a lot different and it’s not as busy as the West Coast, but the hockey is so much harder.” Hall was captain of the California Gold Rush, an ice hockey team in the Midget 16AA division based at Skatetown in Roseville. The team traveled to New York in late 2007 for a tournament and to watch several Division I and III college hockey games. They practiced on the Olympic Ice at Lake Placid and visited three prep schools during the trip, sparking a burning desire in Hall to elevate his hockey game at a similar institution. “That trip initiated the search,” said Gregg Hall, Austin’s father. “I was so impressed with these prep schools, especially educationally. Austin wanted to play hockey at a higher level and that was a lot harder to find around here.” The Halls hired an educational consultant on the East Coast who had also played hockey in the area. The consultant introduced the family to a dozen ideal prep schools and the search was on. Hall applied to eight and was accepted to five, choosing Tilton during a tour last April based primarily on the hockey program. “They were all very impressive but this one stood out,” Gregg said. “The hockey coaches made it clear that all the kids would know where they stood in the program. One of the key differences in this school and their hockey program is they try to develop kids within their program, where a lot of the other programs recruit.” Tilton’s requirement of three extracurricular activities each year quickly transformed Hall into a three-sport athlete. He was a swing player on Tilton’s varsity and JV soccer teams last fall, helping the varsity win the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council championship. Hall earned MVP honors as a standout on the boys varsity “B” hockey team this winter and hopes to be selected for the varsity “A” team next season. “All the players here are a lot better and you get more people than in just a small area,” Hall said. “We have people getting recruited.” Hall, who stands at 145 pounds and is pushing 5-foot-9, is playing junior varsity lacrosse this spring and has embarked on a weight training program that focuses on specific muscles used in hockey. He’s added indoor soccer to the juggling act. “It works out all right,” he said. “We have scheduled times for everything. You have time for practice after school and there’s a designated two hours of study hall at night.” Hall is already anxiously anticipating next winter, when a move up to the “A” varsity hockey squad could help advance his plans to play collegiately. “The scouts who usually come to the games aren’t allowed to talk to you until your senior year, but you can have unofficial talks, usually during your junior year,” Hall said. “We’ll see what happens.” In the meantime, Hall is hoping to be reunited with Kody Combs, his best friend since age 3. Combs, who played on the Gold Rush alongside Hall, was a member of the San Jose Jr. Sharks Midget 16AAA squad this season. He was recently accepted to Tilton, where he would repeat his junior year in the fall. “That would be so great,” Hall said. “It’d be kind of like having some part of home.”