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Pee Wees win title, Bantams 2nd

Melinda Mawdsley

Not again.

That had to be what the Steamboat Pee Wee A hockey team was thinking after, for the second day in a row, Arvada came from behind to tie in a game’s closing seconds.

On Saturday, Arvada rallied to tie Steamboat, 2-2, with eight seconds left in the game. In Sunday’s Ski Town USA Hockey Festival championship, Arvada tied the game at 2-2 with one second left, sending the game to overtime.

Pee Wee coach George Bennett thought his players, who are 11 and 12 years old, would be down about another Arvada rally. To his surprise and to the team’s credit, the players were just the opposite.

“I brought my kids over, and everyone had a smile on their face,” Bennett said. “They said, ‘We’re not bummed. We’re going to get the puck, and we’re going to pass it and score.'”

It turned out to be the prophetic moment of the tournament, when 13 seconds after the overtime faceoff, Kaelen Gunderson scored the game-winning goal off an assist from Alex Bennett.

Gunderson had all three Steamboat goals, and Bennett had all three assists in Sunday’s 3-2 final.

“Arvada and us are so close,” goalie Erik Owen said. “It’s so fun to play them.”

Arvada won the initial overtime faceoff, but Steamboat’s Ryan Zywicki hassled one of Arvada’s wing players into turning over the puck. Alex Bennett picked up the loose puck and delivered a perfect pass across the ice to Gunderson, who went high for the score.

Bennett and Gunderson scored 10 of Steamboat’s 11 goals in the tournament, but it was all the players’ effort that left George Bennett most proud.

“We play exceptional team hockey,” he said. “Everyone does their job, and when the opportunity presents itself to score, boom, we finish. Arvada was the state champs last year, so winning against them was pretty exciting.”

Steamboat’s goalie combination of Owen and Philip Riley stopped 16 of the 18 Arvada shots on goal. Owen hasn’t given up a goal in six games.

“My coach, George, says I shield off the bottom of the net well,” Owen, 12, said. “As a goalie, you have to be mentally prepared for everything.”

But Steamboat’s Pee Wee team wasn’t the only local club to enjoy success during the weekend. The Bantam A team composed of 13- and 14-year-olds took second to Littleton in its division. Littleton won, 9-1, in Sunday’s title game, but Steamboat defeated Littleton, 3-0, on Saturday.

Coach Dan Bonner said Littleton is traditionally the top Bantam program in the state, so the team was thrilled to take one of two during the weekend.

The Bantam team went 2-2 during the weekend. In the win against Littleton, Sam Yokubonis scored the game-winning goal in the first period, but Steamboat added two more goals for insurance. Goalie Sean Kuusinen got the win in net.

Steamboat’s Midget Minor A team also competed, finishing fourth behind champion Arvada and runner-up Arapahoe. Hyland Hills was third, defeating Steamboat, 2-1, in the consolation game.

The next big tournament for the Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association is a girls’ tournament in February.

— To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208

or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com


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