Junior Mavs end hockey season

Kele Steffler, right, of the Durango Steamers eyes his opponent Jordan Nichols of the Crested Butte Blizzard as he takes the puck down the ice during the second period of Sunday’s Squirt level championship game at Glacier Ice Arena.

The Grand Valley Junior Mavericks ended their season Sunday with a 3-2 loss to the Telluride Lizard Heads at the Glacier Ice Arena. The game was part of the Rocky Mountain Youth Hockey League Squirt Championship tournament, which featured teams with
9-and-10-year-old players from Western Colorado.

Despite the elimination, Mavericks coach Scott Carmichael was pleased with how his squirts finished the season.

“We played our best hockey, especially in that last game,” Carmichael said. “It could have gone either way. The kids played well, it’s our first season in the league and they hung in there with all the teams.”

The Mavericks struggled early in their elimination game, allowing a goal by Telluride’s Scout Engbring with 8:32 left in the first period.

Less than 30 seconds later, Dillon Nafziger widened the lead with another goal past Grand Valley’s Ben Richmond.

With 3:51 left in the opening period Maverick Logan Gentzler got a penalty, which Telluride capitalized on with Matt Palamar scoring on the power play to give the Lizard Heads a 3-0 lead after the first period.

The power play goal was the last Telluride saw in the game as Richmond used every part of his body to keep shots out of net.

“(Richmond) was a little shaky early on,” Carmichael said. “Toward the end of the game I thought he played really well.”

Grand Valley looked to come back as momentum swung its way when Kordale Bavor scored on a power play with 8:42 left in the second period. Both teams went scoreless the rest of the period.

The Mavericks scored quickly in the third period, with Billet Porter capitalizing on a faceoff in Telluride’s defensive zone with 8:05 left in the third period. With 4:11 left in the game, the Lizard
Heads found themselves with a two-man disadvantage. Grand Valley saw scoring chances, but Telluride was able to effectively kill the penalties and keep its 3-2 lead.

Telluride ended up playing two more games, first beating Craig 6-1, and immediately after playing a semifinal game against Crested Butte, which it lost 5-3. Coach Gerry Cesario attributed the loss more to a rivalry between the teams than fatigue. He noted that the games the teams played prior to Sunday’s were usually very close in score.

“We had strong goaltending,” Cesario said. “They have a few players who are hard to stop, and we did a good job limiting their shots.”

Crested Butte faced Durango in the finals, a rematch of a game from earlier in the morning, which Durango won 10-2. The Steamers came out strong again, with captain Kele Steffler scoring two goals in the first period to give Durango a 2-0 lead.

The second period saw a combined three goals for the teams in a one-minute span. With 6:47 left in the period, Robert Grogan scored for Durango and teammate Devin Steffler scored 30 seconds later. Crested Butte’s Ben Barrett put his team on the board to cut Durango’s lead to 4-2 at the end of the second period.

Kele Steffler finished a hat trick with seven minutes left in the final period. Benjamin Mickel scored for Durango with two minutes left, and Crested Butte’s August Hensley scored with 56 seconds left to finish the game.

The weekend’s games provided entertainment, but also helped the family of Dustin McGuiness, a 15 year-old hockey player in Durango who was put in a coma last month after taking a hit during a game.

“Everyone is aware of what is going on with Dustin and it brought everyone a lot closer together,“ said Grand Valley Youth Hockey Association director Curt Mackey. “Everyone is a little more conscious about keeping an eye on head injuries, which is something we need to be watching all the time.”

During the games, fans were able to donate cash or check to a fund in McGuiness’ name, and players for all teams wore a red circle decal with his number 21 on the back of their helmets.

The tournament marked the end of the season for the Grand Valley Junior Mavericks.

Information on helping the McGuiness family can be found on Juniormavs.com, or on the family’s blog at Dmcguiness.livejournal.com.


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