The aura of hockey surrounded them: They sat on the same benches where pro players sit; they pulled on their jerseys in front of the same lockers in which pro players hang their sweat-stained uniforms; they heard inspirational words from their coaches in the very same locker room where some of the sport’s best players do the same.
But Telluride’s boys didn’t let the overwhelming atmosphere of playing their State Championship final match in the same rink as the Colorado Avalanche stop them from focusing on their goal to win the 2012 Squirts C State Championship Final.
As the boys huddled in the Pepsi Center locker room listening to head coach Bill Hoins explain that if they could win this next game, they could start a new tradition in Telluride hockey, their ears were open. And what’s more, the Telluride Squirts hockey team followed through.
Telluride blazed to a 4-2 victory over Arapahoe, winning the town’s first boys State Championship trophy, while garnering a new legacy for Telluride Lizard Head hockey in the process.
Telluride had just posted an upset victory in the prior day’s semi-final, beating favored Littleton on that team’s home turf, 3-0, with one goal scored by Dylan Webster and two by John Hoins, for three points in the semifinal game vs. Littleton.
Telluride walked onto the Littleton rink considered the underdogs, despite the fact that the team had the same record as its adversaries: 18-1-1. The rankings seeded them fourth going into the State Tournament, however, where they’d have to meet, and beat, number-one ranked Littleton in the semi-finals before they could get their shot at a State Championship title.
Beneath a heavily decorated ceiling dripping with Littleton’s previous years’ Championship banners, Telluride fans cheered their team on to victory.
“Littleton was very surprised,” said assistant coach Gary Richard. “We came in with a huge crowd and beat them, and they couldn’t believe it. I don’t think they’ve ever seen that kind of pressure,” he noted, pointing to the fundamentals Telluride has utilized throughout the season that got them into the Championships in the first place.
“The other team was bigger, taller, and faster, but they weren’t as organized,” Richard explained, describing Telluride’s game plan as one that doesn’t depend on just one or two players running the puck up and down the rink, but rather puts the task of winning upon the shoulders of every player on the ice. “It’s how we beat everybody this year. Our players are absolutely required to use each other to move the puck around.”
In the finals the following day, Telluride was first to score against Arapaho, with Matheau Richard setting up John Hoins for the first point of the game. Hoins had another goal up his sleeve, this time dished up off a pass from Nicholas Denesik less than one minute after his first.
Yet Arapaho had an answer to Telluride’s early scoring blitz, with the team finding the back of Telluride goalkeeper Caleb Hobbs’ net late in the first period to put the score at 2-1 going in to the second period.
Richard and Hoins were quick to get to work in the second, however, quickly moving the puck to Dylan Webster’s waiting stick. Webster promptly put the puck in the net, giving Telluride back its two-point cushion just 18 seconds into the second period.
Arapaho kept up, scoring its second goal a few minutes later. But they couldn’t hold on for long, with Telluride’s Hoins earning his hat trick midway through the second period thanks to a pass from Webster.
Telluride kept their rivals at bay throughout the third period, ultimately celebrating their big win beneath the Pepsi Center’s big lights; a fitting culmination to a brilliant weekend, and a near-perfect season.
Richard said the team truly deserves the banner that will now hang alongside Telluride’s two other State Championship banners, won by Telluride’s U-19 Girls’ team in 2008 and 2009. Coaches Richard, Hoins, and Damien Webster were astonished by their players’ courtesy and civility on the ice, especially when facing not-so-respectful performances from some of their competition this season.
“They were outstanding,” Richard said. “Here is a group of kids that are on their way to becoming great hockey players.”