Aspen Pee Wee A Team wins California tourney
The Aspen Times
The Aspen Leafs Pee Wee A Team skated into history in California last weekend.
The local junior hockey team won the ninth annual Pacific District Silver Stick Regional Qualifier Tournament in San Jose with an overall record of 5-1.
The team defeated the South Tahoe Grizzlies in the championship game.
In six games, Logan Rech led the Aspen Leafs Pee Wee A Team in scoring with 8 points (7 goals and 1 assist).
Henry Morrison, Jack Pevny and Max Ufkes finished tied for second with 6 points each.
In their first two games, Aspen defeated the San Diego Saints, 8-0, and the Tri Valley Blue Devils, 5-1.
On Saturday morning, South Lake Tahoe defeated Aspen, 3-0, handing the Leafs their only loss of the weekend.
Later in the day, Aspen defeated the Redwood City Black Stars, 4-2, giving the Aspen team enough points to advance to the playoff round.
In the semifinals, the Aspen Leafs scored in triple overtime against the California Heat to advance to the championship.
In the title game (a rematch against the Grizzlies from South Lake Tahoe), Rech and Robbie Fitzgerald scored two third-period goals to lift Aspen to a thrilling 3-1 victory.
Goaltender Logan Gorbitz was solid in net, posting an impressive 1.50 goals-against-average, a .936-save percentage and 140 total saves in six games.
With the win, Aspen will travel to Port Huron, Mich., in January to participate in the International Silver Stick Finals.
For Aspen Junior Hockey Director Shaun Hathaway, the victory represented another important step for the growth of youth hockey in the Roaring Fork Valley.
“To win such a prestigious regional tournament is simply a reflection of the hard work and dedication displayed by our players,” Hathaway said.
“To be rewarded with the chance to participate in the International Silver Stick Finals is a tremendous accomplishment that puts our program on the same footing with many of the top youth programs in the nation.”
The International Silver Stick Hockey event was the brainchild of Jack Kinsella.
It started while attending a friendly exhibition game in Potsdam, N.Y., between the Bantam Woodroffe Cardinals from Ottawa West and the Bantam Potsdam Golden Knights in November of 1956.
After watching his son play for Woodroffe, Kinsella decided a return match should be set up to promote the game and foster “goodwill” between the two countries.
There was little ice available in Ottawa, so Kinsella looked to Richmond, Ontario, just west of Ottawa. Richmond had one of the very few indoor rinks at that time.
The tournament philosophy would be aimed at helping the boys develop “citizenship and international good will through hockey.”
Ernie Temple, a coach in the Richmond Minor Hockey Association, wanted to test the idea with Kinsella.
They organized two games to be played in the Richmond, Ontario, arena on Feb. 6, 1958. The game featured the Woodroffe Bantams and the Richmond Pee Wees playing their counterparts from Potsdam.
The games were sold out and enthusiasm ran high. This proved that the concept was a successful one and paved the way for the first Silver Stick hockey tournament.
The first tournament was held in February of 1958 and was based on a four-game total points system.
Bantam and Pee Wee teams from both Potsdam and South Carleton, Ontario, (an all-star team made up of players from the Richmond area) each played in a two-game, home-and-home series.
They played using American college rules for all of the games, which seemed more suited for Pee Wee and Bantam-age boys at the time.
The teams from Potsdam defeated those from South Carleton, 5-3, thus crowning Potsdam as the first International Silver Stick champions.
The tournament lives on today in Canada, the United States and on Canadian military bases in Europe.
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Keegan Swirbul was set to carry on with his nomadic career this summer with Ljubljana Gusto Santic, a professional cycling team based out of Slovenia