Itagaki commits to D1 hockey program: RPI

Elizabeth Hupe and Dylan Samuels

From backyard battles as kids to state champions, junior Max Itagaki, and his sister Madison have grown up playing hockey side-by-side teaching each other new tricks and how to compete. According to Max, when playing on their backyard rink, Madison would teach him how to glide the puck past the goalie, while Max taught her moves to drift past defenders.

Growing up, Max played several sports such as baseball and golf, but at four years old he took a quick liking to hockey.

“Hockey is my favorite sport because of the pace and energy of the game,” Max said. “I was always best at it.”

He started playing for the Glenview Stars, a youth hockey program, and later switched to one of the top youth hockey programs, Mission Hockey. Max stated that his team includes multiple Division 1athletes, so they are one of the top ranked teams in the country.

“It’s pretty easy for our team to win the state championship, we have won the last five years,” Max said. “It is much harder to win a national championship because your playing against the best teams in the country.”

Max and Madison’s hockey careers would not have been possible without the support of their  parents they say. Their mom would drive them to practices and games far away, while their dad started to teach them how to play and coached them at a young age; it became a team effort. The sport was always in their blood, due to their dad’s hockey filled-past, according to Max.

“When growing up, our dad taught us how to play and got us into the game,” Max said. “He was a main influence on us.”

They could not be more grateful for all the time and energy their parents have put into making their dreams come true, according to Max.

When looking for a school, Max not only wanted a great hockey school, but a place where he can get a great learning experience in college, so Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute looked like the perfect fit.

“It was my dream to play Division 1 hockey and get an education as well,” Max said.

He had to go through a lot mental and physical tests as a player, according to Max. While his coach would encourage him, there would still be people who doubted him. On top of this, people didn’t think his size would get him too far in the world of hockey.

“Being a smaller player is always harder,” Max said. “Everyone thinks [I’m] not going to be good.”

Madison influenced Max’s career by being a big role model, as she plays at Rochester Institute of Technology for Division 1 hockey.

“He’s been working really hard, I’ve noticed a lot,” Madison said. “I’m proud that [the hard work] paid off.”