During a conversation at her parents’ house in Springs the other day, Khloe Goncalves, whose 14-and-under roller hockey travel team recently won a national championship, said she was a third or fourth grader when she took her friend Jackson Rafferty up on his suggestion that she try the sport.
As he thought, Goncalves, an all-around athlete, took to it. She didn’t enjoy any of the other sports she played — football, basketball, and softball among them — as much as roller hockey, said the 15-year-old East Hampton High School sophomore, who was to have attended Henrik Lundqvist’s goalie camp in Brooklyn this past weekend.
It had taken a while — four or five years of skating, she said — before she started minding the nets in pickup roller hockey games at what is now Sportime’s multisport arena in Amagansett. Almost immediately everyone took notice — including the adults who played roller hockey at Sportime and ice hockey at the Buckskill Winter Club. “Unfortunately,” she said, “the pickup games at Buckskill and Sportime are at around the same time Sunday mornings.”
Goncalves tends goal for a number of roller hockey teams out of the Rapid Fire rink in Center Moriches, all of them top-flight competitors at the national level. Three of them — the women’s 18-and-over entry, and the girls 17-and-under and 14-and-under teams, played in tournaments in Chicago earlier this month. She said she drove out in an R.V. with her father, Candido, her mother, Diane, “and the dog.”
“There were teams there from Canada, Colorado, Texas, California, North Carolina. . . . Our 17-and-under team went undefeated. That team’s so good. We blew out everyone, and got to hoist up a 20-to-30-pound cup. I had two shutouts, one in the 14-and-under 1999 division and one in the 17-and-unders.”
In addition, she was named to the national 14-and-under all-star team.
Because she’s not tall — 5-foot-1 — Goncalves plays aggressively, coming out frequently to cut down the angles, though, because she can skate so well, she’s rarely caught out of position. She catches with her left hand and blocks with her right.
Tyler Jarvis, arguably the best roller hockey player at Sportime, often works with her, she said, alternating aiming above her shoulders or for the lower left corner of the cage where she must, after having quickly dipped into a knock-kneed “butterfly” split, parry the puck with her blocker pad.
Ordinarily, she said, she would be practicing four or five times a week, “though Rapid Fire is getting re-tiled now.”
Answering a question, Goncalves said that Rapid Fire’s Jason Muro, who coaches its Mission Black Ice travel teams, “thinks I have a good chance to win a college scholarship, either in roller hockey or ice hockey. I haven’t played goalie all that much on the ice, though the transition isn’t hard.”
She wished, Goncalves added, that there were high school ice hockey competition out here, as there is up the Island.
In the past year, she’s played in three national tournaments — the others were in Toronto, where Rapid Fire’s Roadrunners 14-and-under team won a bronze medal, and in Detroit, where the Mission Black Ice 14s won a silver. In 2012, she was named top goalie in a 12-and-under regional qualifier tournament — her first tourney ever — that was contested in Pittsburgh, Pa.
“I’ve gotten a medal in every tourney I’ve been in . . . I guess I’ve found my calling,” she said, with a smile.
“It’s been all roller hockey so far,” she continued. “I’ve only played on the ice five times. The ice rinks are pretty far away. They say the Southampton Recreation Center may have one in a couple of years. . . .”
In the meanwhile, it looks as if the Goncalveses may be adding even more mileage to their vehicles.