Grizzly Midget Major A hockey team finishes 2009 strong

Peter Tibbetts
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

In less than 24 hours last weekend, the Glenwood Grizzly Midget Major A team completed three games against Denver area teams including first-place Hyland Hills.

The weekend featured a 3-2 loss to Arvada, a 3-1 win over Arapahoe and a thrilling 4-3 loss to Hyland.

The action began on Saturday afternoon at the Apex Parks and Recreation District twin-rink facility in Arvada.

The Grizzlies found themselves quickly in a hole after Arvada won the faceoff and started a breakaway for a 1-0 lead only 24 seconds into the game.

Glenwood appeared sluggish from the three-hour drive and could not put together any solid attacks in the first two periods and continually found itself a man down with seven penalties in the first two periods. Arvada took advantage and scored again in the second period for 2-0 lead.

The Grizzlies came out of hibernation in the third period. Levi Fetterhoff began the scoring for the Grizzlies on a play set up by Tanner Wood and Dylan Cook.

Unfortunately, Arvada responded less than a minute later to recapture its two-goal advantage. The Grizzlies stayed out of the penalty box and did not back down, outshooting Arvada in the third period.

It paid off when Dan Abshire and Tony Bosco, a combo becoming as common as Stockton to Malone, combined for Abshire’s ninth goal of the season.

The Grizzlies did not have much time to think about the game as they had to change, pack up, eat and head across town to another twin-rink facility at the Family Sports Center Ice Arena to face Arapahoe, who had dominated the Grizzlies, 6-2, in Glenwood’s first home game of the season.

There was another goal off the opening faceoff, but this time it was the Grizzlies when Abshire scored only nine seconds into the game, with another assist by Bosco, as well one from Cam Avery.

The lead increased to 2-0 when Cook fought off two Arapahoe defenders and released a wrist shot past the Arapahoe goaltender for a 2-0 Grizzly lead.

Arapahoe was able to take advantage of one of only three Glenwood penalties and scored a power-play goal just before the end of the first period to close the score to 2-1.

Grizzly goaltender Michael Brunk came up strong and constantly frustrated the Arapahoe attacks, including amazing stops on breakaways.

Both teams were held scoreless in the second period for a 2-1 start in the third period.

Sensing the opportunity to redeem themselves for the early embarrassing loss at home, Glenwood took over in the third period. All players were giving the extra effort to protect and extend the lead, as exemplified by defenseman Conner Pawlak, who threw his body in front of many Arapahoe shots.

The Grizzlies fought hard and won the battles against the boards. It all paid off when, halfway through the third period, Fetterhoff found himself with a wide-open net from a rebound from another Abshire shot.

Fetterhoff took advantage and extended the lead to 3-1. Jake McPherson assisted on the goal. The Grizzlies maintained the pressure in third period and Brunk continued his strong play in goal for a Glenwood win.

The victory was of special significance for the Grizzlies, as they achieved a very significant milestone for Glenwood Grizzly Hockey coach Tim Cota. The victory was coach Cota’s 300th career coaching win.

On Sunday afternoon, the Grizzlies traveled to Westminster for a game inside one of the few triple-rink facilities in North America – the Ice Center at the Promenade. There, they faced first-place Hyland Hills.

Hyland Hills’ 10 victories included six shutouts and an average margin of victory of more than six goals. The Grizzlies were without their leading scorer, Bosco, who injured his ankle against Arapahoe.

None of that mattered to the Grizzlies as they were able to combine three solid periods of play with another stellar performance by Brunk, who, at times, appeared to “stand on his head” for some amazing saves.

Hyland Hills got on the board first with a goal just over five minutes in the first period. Taking advantage of one of only three Grizzly penalties, Hyland Hills scored a power-play goal for a 2-0 lead.

Grizzly Trey Fox denied Hyland Hills its seventh shutout when he directed a perfect pass from Abshire past Hyland’s goaltender to close the gap to 2-1.

Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, Hyland Hills took advantage of Glenwood’s final penalty to score a second power-play goal and increase the lead to 3-1 after two periods.

Hyland Hills tried to put the game away when they increased the lead to 4-1 just over two minutes into the third period.

The Grizzlies could have buckled under the relentless Hyland Hills attack, but they did not. They wore their hearts on their sleeves in the third period.

There were countless signs the Grizzlies had no intention of backing down.

Defenseman Cam Avery leaped from the blue line and knocked down a lob attempt that surely would have been a breakaway opportunity for Hyland Hills.

Defenseman Grant Wood, playing on an injured ankle, delivered a bone-shattering check against a Hyland forward.

Pawlak, McPherson and many others continued to stop shots with their bodies.

Tanner Wood was knocked to the ice and still knocked the puck over the blue line to stop the Hyland’s forecheck.

It all culminated when Fox, who always seemed to be double-teamed, scored his second goal on a pass from Abshire and Cam Dacuma.

The score was now 4-2 with only seven minutes remaining. The Grizzlies closed the score to 4-3 when Fox unleashed an arena-ringing slapshot off the post and past the Hyland’s goaltender. It was Fox’s first hat trick of the season and Abshire’s third assist of the game.

The Grizzlies added an extra skater in the final two minutes, pulling Brunk out of goal, and, while it created lots of excitement, the Grizzlies were not able to take advantage and the game ended 4-3.

With 40 shots on goal, this was the third-highest shots-on-goal performance by Hyland Hills. In those other two games, Hyland Hills won 11-0 and 12-2, which puts Brunk’s performance in perspective and the Grizzlies’ ability to play with the best teams in the league.

The Grizzly Midget Major A team is off during the holiday break, and returns to the Glenwood Springs Community Center ice rink on Saturday, Jan. 2, to host Boulder at 3 p.m. All games are free and open to the public.

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