Got hockey? Fall Face-Off set to deliver
The icemen cometh.This weekend, Aspen’s two sheets of ice will play host to some 68 hockey games – that’s right, sixty-freaking-eight games! – for the first of three weekends of the 11th annual Aspen Junior Hockey Fall Face-Off Tournament.The 24 Hours of Aspen is gone, but the lineup for the next three weekends is almost as frenetic. This weekend, at the Aspen Ice Garden and the Lewis Ice Arena at the ARC, games run approximately from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday, 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday, and 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday”Teams are coming from as far away as Dallas and San Jose, California,” said Tim Ware, the tournament director. “Word gets out when you put on a good tournament. In the next couple years, who knows, maybe we can pull in a Canadian team so they can come down here and teach us all how to play hockey.”The first weekend of the Fall Face-Off features four divisions: Squirt B (9- and 10-year-olds), Peewee B (11- and 12-year-olds), Bantam A (13- and 14-year-olds) and Midget Major AA (15-, 16- and 17-year-olds).Aspen teams are represented in each division, with the Midget Major AA division promising to deliver some of the highest-caliber junior hockey in the state. (For a complete schedule, see http://www.aspenjuniorhockey.com.)The Aspen Midget Major AA team will be facing off with Arapahoe, Arvada, Vail and Colorado Springs in a round-robin format. All the finals are slated for Sunday.One of the featured matchups will be the latest revival of the Aspen-Vail rivalry.”Anytime Aspen and Vail get together, it’s always going to be spirited,” said Bryan Ganz, the executive director of Aspen Junior Hockey and head coach of the Midget Major AA and Aspen High teams. “And I don’t think anything will change this weekend. The club rivalry, at least at the midget level, is probably not as strong as the high school rivalry, but regardless of the team there’s always something between these two towns. No doubt.”Already this season the Aspen Midget Major AA’s have lost to Colorado Springs and Arapahoe. “Close games, though,” said Ganz. “We’ve been in every game.”We started in early September and we’ve played eight or nine games. We’re doing OK, but we’ve hit an injury bug. Now we’ve got some young guys who are stepping up and I’m proud of the guys,” Ganz added.This weekend alone, tourney organizers are expecting some 660 hockey players in town, plus their coaches and parents.”We’ll bring a total of 92 teams over the next three weekends, which means a whole lot of hotel rooms and a whole lot of hockey,” said Ware. “It’s grown into a pretty big tournament, and it’s a lot of fun.”Since Aspen added a second rink with the Lewis Ice Arena, the tournament has tripled in size, with help from local lodges and city officials.”We felt like we were in position to throw one of the biggest and best tournaments in Colorado, but we needed unrestricted use of the ice and help from the lodging community,” said Ware. “Well, everyone supported us. And this weekend, it’s the most games I’ve ever scheduled in one weekend. It’s a lot of hockey, period. But it’s also a coordinated effort with all the other users, not to mention the scheduling of referees alone.”The weekend of Nov. 5-7, the tournament will feature Squirt C, Peewee A, Bantam B and Midget Major A action. The weekend of Nov. 12-14, the girls take over with under-19, under-14 and under-12 action, as well as a Mite Jamboree.Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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