From the moment Caylin Relkoff laced up a pair of hockey skates and raced in wide-eyed amazement around the rink, it was evident the three-year-old was destined for the ice.
The same energy beaming in his eyes 20 years later tells the story of a willed boy from Grand Forks, British Columbia, Canada, who set out to pursue a dream to play hockey—and never let his goal out of sight.
The game and earning a degree, are what brought Relkoff, a human performance health promotion bachelor degree major, to Morrisville State College where he's been a goalie standout for the Mustang men's ice hockey team for three seasons. The team is now in its first year of official play in NCAA Division III competition.
Relkoff, 23, has amassed a laudable number of saves throughout his hockey career and holds the college's record for all-time saves as goalie. Behind the net minder's brilliant play, is a team and coaches that elevate his game and power his prowess.
The Mustangs have shared impressive road victories over Elmira College, ranked #11 nationally at the time, SUNY Geneseo, and rallied a convincing 5-3 victory over SUNY Potsdam.
A former street hockey goalie, Relkoff aspired to take his talents to the ice and finally had a chance to shine in the net when he was 12. He's commanded the crease ever since.
His choice has not been without sacrifices, though.
Hailing from Northern British Columbia, approximately six hours northwest of Vancouver, Relkoff left home at age 18 to play collegiate ice hockey. He lived with host families playing for two years on different Junior teams in the province of Manitoba and later played in Ontario for the Huntsville Muskoka Otters, a Tier I Junior A Canadian provincial team northeast of Toronto.
While Relkoff was with Huntsville, he was scouted and recruited by former Morrisville State College head coach Earl Utter, to play hockey for the Mustangs and earn his degree.
The 6'2'' goalie, driven by formidable mental discipline and respect for the game, has marked traits Morrisville State College head ice hockey coach Brian Grady says have charged his accomplishments in the net.
“I've seen consistent contributions through his play,” Grady said. “He is big, athletic, flexible, and has exceptional skills. On top of that, his positive attitude and general demeanor make him a very likeable guy and teammate.”
Relkoff's play has garnered national attention along with the respect of his competitors in and around college ice hockey. His 47 save performance in the 2-1 victory over perennial powerhouse Elmira College, in front of a hostile 1,650 fans, was enough to earn him the honor of being named the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) “Goaltender of the Week” for the week ending Nov. 1, 2009.
Though years of hard work on the ice have led to minor injuries, bumps, bruises and knee strains, the shutouts and glove saves are worth anything in Relkoff's eyes.
Among his most memorable moments on the ice are the Mustang's win against Elmira and playing in an exhibition game against Princeton, an impressive team the Mustangs held from scoring until 27 minutes into the game.
On and off the ice, hockey has rounded out Relkoff's life in many ways.
“I have found that it has taught me so many things,” he said with an accent that bears a trace of his home 3,000 miles away. “I have gained important social skills and basic life skills like how to trust, share, and how to be part of a team.”
College has also complemented his life.
“I've grown so much as a person and have learned so much,” he said.
In his courses, Relkoff gained hands-on skills that led to an internship helping with strength-training and conditioning members of the college's football team, and he later landed a job off-campus as a goalie instructor.
Never standing in one place for too long, Relkoff's lifestyle keeps him busy with nightly practices and homework, but he still finds time to stay in touch with his mom, dad and sister, all still in British Columbia.
He reunited with his family for Christmas this year, a vacation he cut short to compete in the St. Michaels Holiday Classic Tournament at St. Michaels College in Vermont.
Like every other hockey player, Relkoff lives the dream of going as far as possible with his career, hoping to go pro someday, but also recognizes the importance of getting a quality education.
He stands out in the classroom too, where he's excelled academically, having been named to the Dean's List, and also to the SUNYAC All-Academic Team.
Relkoff is the son of Anne Robertson and Ken Relkoff of British Columbia, Canada.