Naperville resident Dallon McKinster is one of only eight elite goalies in the state of Illinois.
He plays for Chicago Young Americans and Team USA and has filled in on teams in Michigan and Colorado.
He’s traveled to places like Kyrgyzstan where he beat Team Russia in an overtime shootout and he’s only 11. “I wanna be in the NHL. That’s probably my goal,” said Dallon McKinster.
With his sights set high, Dallon has dedicated his life to hockey. He’s been skating since he was three. “I always wanted to be a goalie. I would put on pads at pro shop and just thought it was always a cool sport.”
McKinster attends Bridgedale Academy, an academic alternative for young hockey players located inside Seven Bridges Ice Arena.
Once school’s out, his parents drive him an hour to Palatine three days a week for Chicago Young Americans practice, part of the High Performance Hockey League.
“They want to further their hockey careers so they practice at a high level and compete hard everyday,” said Anthony Bergeron, Goalie Coach for Chicago Young Americans.
That means three to four hours of practice both on and off the ice.
Bergeron says for Dallon’s age, he’s at a unique advantage.
“The average 11 year old isn’t even 5’ yet. Dallon’s probably 5’5”. He takes up more net and he’s athletic. So by him taking up more space and being athletic, the combination is very good,” added Bergeron.
He may only be in sixth grade, but he manages to stay cool and collected in one of the most high-stress positions.
While these 11 year olds compete at an extremely high level, they know it’s not always about the win.
“You learn from a loss more than a win. You can get better and come back as a team and regroup,” said McKinster.
Dallon plans to attend high school at Benet Academy or Shattuck in Minnesota with hopes of a college scholarship or a shot at the NHL.
But he knows he has to work hard to make those dreams come true.
“You have to earn your spot. You can’t have somebody doing it for you. You have to earn your ice time.”
Rachel Pierson reports for Sports Story Sunday.