Midget Grizzlies take tournament title in Durango
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
A new arena called to the Glenwood Springs Grizzlies Midget Major A hockey team this Presidents Day weekend, as the crew traveled to Durango for the first time this season to play in the ninth annual Presidents Day Tournament.
After dropping their opener against the New Mexico Renegades, the Grizzlies didn’t lose again, winning a tourney title in Durango.
Saturday morning the action began as the Grizzlies took on a highly rated New Mexico Renegades team. Facing a tough goaltender, the Grizzlies skated to a 2-1 loss.
The Grizzlies had to play smart, considering this was just the first of three games on the day. The first period was a back-and-forth game until, toward the end, New Mexico scored the game’s first goal.
Five minutes into the second period, the Renegades scored again. This was the only goal of the period, even though the Grizzlies peppered the Renegades’ goalie, known as a top New Mexico prospect.
Finally, in the third period, Glenwood’s Matt Shelden put one in the back of the net for the Grizzlies. However, it was too little, too late.
Four hours after the end of its first game, Glenwood faced off against host Durango and scored a 6-2 win.
Apparently dismayed by their loss in the previous game, the Grizzlies came out of the gate slow, allowing a goal just 20 seconds into the first period.
After regrouping, Shelden, with a spectacular pass by Cam Avery, tied the game up at 1.
Early into the second period, the Grizzlies found themselves on a power play, which was capitalized upon by a goal from Jake Bair. Soon after, Michael Porter increased Glenwood’s lead with an assist from Tanner Wood.
In the third period, the Grizzlies took off with two more goals from Porter and Wood, both having each other’s assists. Dylan Cook assisted both goals as well.
Durango made another effort and scored late in the third, only to have the advantage erased with another goal by Wood, again assisted by Porter.
“We felt that we needed to play with more emotion to be able to bring our game to the next level, well-placed emotion, that is … with strong leadership from our captains, I felt we were able to accomplish that goal in this game and it showed on the scoreboard,” Grizzlies coach Tim Cota said.
Another couple of hours later, Glenwood took on the Renegades once again, striking for a 3-2 win.
The game started out close once more. This time, however, Glenwood struck first. Late in the first period, Shelden put one away with an assist from Levi Fetterhoff.
Early into the second period, the Grizzlies increased their lead with a goal by Avery off of assists by Fetterhoff and Shelden.
New Mexico struck back only 20 seconds after, decreasing its deficit to just one again.
The second period ended with Glenwood ahead, 2-1.
The third period was a scoreless battle until, with 2 minutes, 30 seconds in the game, the Renegades tied it up at 2.
A tie was unacceptable for Glenwood. A win against this team was necessary to make it to the championship game, so the Grizzlies came out and fought back, getting chance after chance to score.
With 41 seconds left, a shot from the point by Bair was rebounded by Shelden for a goal to put Glenwood in the lead for good.
“We were defensively sound throughout the entire game, no big mistakes and we were very consistent throughout. … I was proud of our defensemen,” defensive coach Mike Henry lauded.
With the defeat of the top team in the tournament and help from other teams, the Grizzlies had clinched the championship round. However, the next day started with another game against Durango.
Durango was determined to end the tourney on a high note and came out swinging in a game that would end in a 4-all draw.
Durango scored quickly, putting Glenwood in a slump, which they did not come out of until after Durango’s second goal.
Cook scored at the end of the period to finally get Glenwood on the scoreboard. The first period ended with Durango on top, 2-1.
The Grizzlies fell behind by one more goal early into the second, making it seem like they could not match the opposing team’s effort. But they did not give up as Shelden scored for Glenwood with assists from Wood and Porter at the end of the second period.
The third period began with the tourney hosts ahead by a 3-2 count. And, just like the last two periods, Durango came out of the gate quick with another goal, putting Glenwood down by two.
The Grizzlies continued to fight back, however, as Cook scored again with assists by Wood and Porter to put them within one.
Then, less than a minute later, Glenwood’s Guy Sappington scored off of an assist from Cook to round out the count at 4-all.
The championship game took place later that night. As the puck dropped, the intensity was high, as this was the third time the Grizzlies and the Renegades had played. The past two games between the two enemies had been physical and chippy.
This championship match was set to be even more so. The Renegades took over the physical aspect, as well as the scoring in the first period, ending it with a two-goal lead. The Grizzlies had to dig deep if they wanted to stay in the game.
“Considering we were down two goals after the first period, the coaching staff felt it was a good period for us, we needed to react accordingly and stick to our game plan,” assistant coach Kim Fetterhoff stated.
That is exactly what the Grizzlies were set to do, surging back to win the game, 5-2.
Early into the second period, Shelden put in a goal for Glenwood with an assist from Levi Fetterhoff, making the statement to the Renegades: it’s not over.
This ignited a spark in the Grizzlies, as their physical play and effort were stepped up. They dominated the rest of the period and, with five minutes left, tied it up with another goal from Shelden.
“Our physical conditioning and balanced lineup began to reap rewards. We felt that we were wearing them down … mentally and physically,” said a proud Coach Fetterhoff.
The game now came down to who would win the third period, as it started at a 2-all tie – just 15 minutes to decide a tournament champion.
Due to the Grizzlies’ hustle and physical dominance, New Mexico became frustrated, and Glenwood took advantage.
The power-play unit for the Grizzlies has had setbacks throughout the year, but seemed to have figured a strategy out by this point, considering the unit would end up scoring nine power-play goals throughout the tournament.
The unit did its job, as Wood scored with assists by Porter and Cook, putting Glenwood in the lead. All three members of the offensive line were involved in the set up of the goal, exactly what the power-play portion of a team should do.
And continued to do as Glenwood scored two more power-play goals – one by Shelden off of a Bair assist, and one by Avery off of a Quinn Zamora assist.
“Our captains stressed the importance of strong defensive play and not to give them a reason to get their second wind, we couldn’t allow them to have offensive opportunities that would lead to a momentum shift … we accomplished that together … forwards, defensemen, goalie,” Henry said.
Glenwood had scored five unanswered goals in response to their two-goal deficit. The buzzer sounded, and the Grizzlies had just won their second tournament of the season. Coincidentally, the score that Glenwood had won this championship round by was the same score they had won by in the Fort Collins Slapshot Tournament – 5-2.
“We showed a tremendous amount of poise in the championship game, an attribute that is necessary in winning championships,” Cota said.
With a good weekend behind them, the Grizzlies now roll into a tough contest against Aspen on Thursday night on home ice. The puck is set to drop at 7:15 p.m. After that, there is one more league game for the Grizzlies against Arapahoe on Friday night at the same time before playoffs begin on March 4-5.
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