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Pee Wees play big

Melinda Mawdsley

The discipline and teamwork was befitting a group of players much older than 11 and 12.

But there the Steamboat Springs Pee Wee A team was — all 11 of them, including two goalies — skating with and beating an Arvada team of 16 players who were picked from a tryout of hundreds.

Too bad Pee Wee hockey games are 36 minutes long instead of 35 minutes and 51 seconds. After spending nearly three full periods out-passing, out-skating and out-scoring the Arvada team, it took the final 38 seconds for the Front Range team to erase a two-goal deficit, tying Steamboat 2-2 in Friday afternoon’s game.

Both teams finished 2-0-1 in round-robin play and will meet at 10:15 a.m. today in the championship game at Howelsen Ice Arena.

“We work on our discipline,” Steamboat coach George Bennett said. “Our big theme is team. We only have nine skaters. Everyone is dependent on everyone else. We aren’t tricky. We don’t typically blow people out.”

But Steamboat’s disciplined attack, predicated around strong passing and solid defensive play, has lifted the Pee Wee team to a 12-2-1 record this season.

“We spend 20 minutes every practice on speed work and edges,” Bennett said.

Steamboat’s speed was evident Saturday. Alex Bennett gave Steamboat the early lead at the 4:46 mark of the first half off assists from Emily Birch and Ian Anderson. He couldn’t really remember how he scored until his father, the coach, reminded him.

“Ian passed it to me, and I skated up across the blue line and cut to the middle,” Alex Bennett said. “And I just shot it at the net.”

Bennett’s shot was perfectly placed high and past Arvada goalie Tyler Penton.

Bennett easily remembered how he scored the second goal, a breakaway assisted by Kaelen Gunderson.

“I dropped it around the net to Kaelen, and he feathered it out to me,” Bennett said. Bennett took the pass and skated half the length of the ice, going around several Arvada defenders before firing his shot past Penton.

Penton and Steamboat goalies Erik Owen and Philip Riley played great in net for their teams. Owen, who splits time with Riley, did not give up a goal in the 13-plus minutes he played. Penton turned away six shots on goal, and Owen and Riley stopped 15 Arvada shots on goal.

Bennett’s second goal seemed to give Steamboat the cushion it needed to close out the game, but Arvada got aggressive on offense and got on the board with 38 seconds left in the game.

Riley stopped Michael Pijanowski’s initial shot, but the rebound fell to the ice and took a weird spin behind him into the net. Matt Holmes and Oleg Hayduk were credited with the assists.

Arvada called a timeout and pulled its goalie. Arvada won the face-off but couldn’t get a good look at the goal before Steamboat cleared the zone with less than 20 seconds to go. Steamboat did not take a shot at the open net, and Arvada retrieved the puck and set up its play, which it ran to perfection when Rory Lynch centered a pass to Hayduk in front of the net. Hayduk misdirected the pass into the goal.

— To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com


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