Junior Mavs Pee Wee team makes big leap forward in 2009

If the Junior Mavericks Pee Wee hockey team were to make a movie of this season, maybe it should get Scott Bakula to star in it.

That’s because the Junior Mavs made a quantum leap from last season.

After finishing sixth in the Rocky Mountain Youth Hockey League last season, their first as a competitive hockey program, the Junior Mavs not only won the regular-season title with a 14-1-1 record, they won last weekend’s league tournament.

A victory over Vernal, Utah, and back-to-back wins over Crested Butte launched the Junior Mavs into this weekend’s state Frozen Four Pee Wee tournament in Littleton.

“A lot of the kids I’ve been coaching since they were Squirts and Midgets,” coach Marc Baker said.

Baker, whose son is on the team, started coaching the players in roller hockey, then coached them during Glacier Ice Arena’s first season, when all the teams were in the house program.

Last year was an eye-opener for the players. Pee Wee teams are generally comprised of players ages 11-12.

“We had a lot of 10-year-old kids last year,” Baker said. “Last year was a learning curve.

“This year the kids just developed a lot better than I expected.”

The players matured in size and their understanding of the game

Captain Hunter Henderson epitomizes that growth. He started playing hockey only three years ago. Moving up to a competitive league last season was an awakening.

“We learned how physical it can be,” he said.

The team added a few players between seasons.

“This year we learned it’s a lot faster,” Henderson said.

They adjusted quickly.

Baker said that in addition to the physical and mental growth, the team grasped that ring that every coach seeks.

“They really worked as a team,” he said.

Schyler Stratton is the team’s goalie. He likes being the last line of defense.

“It’s really fun making the saves,” he said. “You’re always in the game.”

He doesn’t mind playing the lone wolf at the end of the ice.

“When our team is doing really well, it’s kind of lonely,” he said, but it’s a feeling he doesn’t mind experiencing.

The Junior Mavs play Littleton on its home ice in Saturday’s semifinals. Aspen and Colorado Springs play the other semifinal.

The winners meet Sunday for the state championship.

Reaching the final four and getting to make one last hockey road trip this season is something the Junior Mavs have been looking forward to all week.

“It’s probably one of the best things you can experience,” Henderson said.


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