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North grad finds niche in roller hockey
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Forsyth County News
It wasn't exactly the Summer Games in Beijing, but one local teenager got a taste of international competition recently, helping lead his roller hockey squad to a fourth-place finish in the AAU Junior Olympics.

Recent North Forsyth graduate Jeff Hudson played on a state champion roller hockey club team for North back in March, and apparently caught the eye of Junior Olympic scouts in the process.

Hudson, 18, said he was invited to try out in Pittsburgh in May, and was told he'd made the cut on the spot.

"I was pretty surprised. There were some good kids there and I was really happy that I made the team," said Hudson, who also played lacrosse at North before graduating this year.

Hudson was assigned to the U.S. Stripes team in the 18-U division, one of four American squads that would compete in the Junior Olympics at that division.

Last month, he traveled to Feasterville, Pa., north of Philadelphia, to compete in an international tournament with a nine-team field that also included teams from Great Britain, New Zealand, Colombia, Namibia and Mexico.

The Stripes were undefeated in pool play, with three wins and one tie. The team fell to eventual champion Great Britain 3-1 in the semifinals, before a 7-0 defeat to Team USA West in the third-place game secured a fourth-place finish.

Hudson said the team got only one practice session together before being thrown into competition mode, requiring them to learn each other's tendencies and set up lines on the fly.

Hudson has been playing roller hockey since age 7. He said he was originally exposed to the sport at the Cumming Skate Center and showed enough interest to convince his parents to enroll him in a camp for beginners.

As s big ice hockey fan, Hudson said that roller hockey is played at an even faster pace than that sport, with games played four-on-four (as opposed to five-on-five) and no offsides or icing calls involved to slow things down.

One aspect both sports share is their rough, physical nature. Punishing hits are just as common in roller hockey as on the ice, said Hudson, who sports a scar stretching around his right arm that he earned during a game.

Brian Work, an assistant coach with the North men's lacrosse team, said that Hudson's skills in the hockey rink translated well to the lacrosse field, where he was a starting midfielder this past year, scoring five goals and notching an assist in an injury-shortened season.

"Despite his relative inexperience with the sport, he contributed tremendously. His hockey skills and athleticism clearly showed in his lacrosse performance," Work said of the young athlete.

Hudson will attend Kennesaw State University in the fall, where he plans to study accounting or finance while continuing to play roller hockey.

He also plans to try out for the Atlanta Cobra Kai this weekend, a professional roller hockey team in the making.

Hudson said one of the best aspects of playing roller hockey at high competition levels is playing against athletes better than himself.

"I'll play for the rest of my life. I'm not sure how far it can take me as a career," he said.

"I like the pace and it's a lot of fun."