Area youth hockey on upswing |

Area youth hockey on upswing

Want to catch some good hockey minus the high ticket prices and a trip to Denver? Then drive over to the Glenwood Springs Community Center’s ice rink early Saturday morning.

At 9 a.m. the Glenwood Grizzlies Midgets, whose roster comprises 15- to 18-year-old area residents, take on a team from Grand Junction in a pair of back-to-back contests.

The Midgets are one of five teams in the Glenwood youth hockey program, which has mushroomed to 112 players since the rink opened two years ago at its current location in West Glenwood.

The home rink for practicing and attendance at off-season camps has improved the Grizzlies hockey skills and their won-loss record.

Heading into Saturday’s doubleheader, the Glenwood Midgets have won 10 of 13 games played in the 2003-04 season.

That figure more than doubles the team’s four victories earned the previous year.

“Experience has been a big difference this year,” said Tim Cota, the team’s coach.

“Last year, we had all first-year players, and it was a slow-learning process for them.”

Of the 32 players on the Grizzlies current roster, 16 were on last year’s team.

Cota said a big factor to the team’s success is depth.

“I’m confident that I can throw three (offensive) lines out there,” the coach said.

The Grizzlies’ “Red Line” of center Ben Guska and forwards Jesse and Adam Hansen have lit the lamp for a high percentage of the team’s scoring this year, though not as much as in the past.

“The Red Line has 46 percent of our point production,” Cota said. “Last year it was about 80 percent.”

The three players have racked up 34 goals and 37 assists between them.

On the defensive side, there’s been improvement as well.

Defensemen Tate Fairbanks and Gray Hussey have played solidly to this point of the season, and goalkeepers Brian King and Keefe O’Conner have saved 90 percent of shots on the Grizzlies’ goal.

“I think it will be a pretty good matchup,” Cota said of Grand Junction.

“They’re not very physical, but they do have speed.”

After Saturday’s doubleheader, the Grizzlies are scheduled to play Grand Junction at the Community Center for an 8 p.m. solo contest on Jan. 2.

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