Steamboat Springs The World Hockey Arena provided the stage and the Continental Divide Youth Hockey League championship provided the forum for three local hockey teams to step into the spotlight last weekend in Colorado Springs.
All of the squads skated off the ice with second-place trophies.
The Braves peewee and squirt teams battled from low seeds in the end-of-season championship to earn a shot at the title in the championship game.
The Steamboat peewee's survived a double-overtime clash with Foothills in the first round. The two teams were tied at one goal apiece until Jake Stanford netted the game winner halfway through the second sudden-death period. Austin Anderson was credited with the assist. Stanford also scored the other Steamboat goal earlier in the game, unassisted.
In the other first-round game, No. 3 seed Vail was upset by YAHA in a 1-0 contest.
Steamboat faced Pueblo in the second round and rolled to a convincing 4-2 victory. The local team has faced Pueblo three times this season with all of the other games ending in ties.
Greg Ingalls and Tanner Stillwell both had second-period goals. Michael VanDahl and Cam Fritz assisted Ingalls on his score. Gunde Schrock and Jesse Helm assisted Stillwell's score.
In the other second round contest, Aspen defeated YAHA 7-0.
In the final game of the tournament, Steamboat faced off against top-ranked Aspen.
The Aspen team won the contest 5-1, but Steamboat coach Todd Sawyer said he was extremely pleased with the way his team played. Ingalls was the only Steamboat player to score a goal with the assist coming from Stanford and Jace Bonner.
"We played with them the whole way," Sawyer said. "Aspen is the best team in the state, but our players never backed down."
In addition to top offensive play, Sawyer also credited goalkeepers Jeff Dawes and Elliott Girard for sparking the team. He also said he got great defensive showings from Jake Dombrowski over the weekend.
In the squirts division, the Steamboat team entered with the No. 5 seed. But head coach John Seymour said his players were peaking at the right time as the local team made its own run at a title.
"We had to win our last six games straight just to get into the tournament," Seymour said. "I'm very proud of the way these guys played this season."
Steamboat defeated No. 3 seed Foothills 3-0 in the first game. Matt Dawes earned the shutout between the pipes.
Steamboat topped that win with a victory over the top-ranked Vail team in the second round. Seymour said it was the first time a Steamboat squirts team has defeated a squad from Vail.
But the team's Cinderella journey came to an end with the heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Aspen in the championship.
"We came from nowhere, we were the No. 5 seed, but we came within 1 minute and 40 seconds of winning a championship," Seymour said. "It was a long process, but these guys really came together and were a super good team when it counted."
Steamboat's bantam team also earned the second-place trophy.
"Everyone who saw the championship game knew who the best team was," coach Dave Strang said.
Despite outshooting Foothills 40-22 in the final game, Steamboat lost the contest 5-2.
Foothills took the early lead with two goals. Steamboat's Chris Baumann scored for Steamboat with an assist from Clay McKenzie.
Steamboat tied the game in the second when Nick Pruett scored a goal after getting an assist from Baumann and Brad Bonner.
Steamboat earned a first-round bye in the tournament and then defeated Casper 2-1 in the second round to earn a shot at Foothills in the championship.
Daniel Coloccia and Nathan Rothe scored the goals in a physical contest against Casper. Nate Coram had an assist.
All three of the teams are expected to take part in an end-of-season tournament March 22-24 in Steamboat Springs.