Let's play two

Schedule issues can't dampen fun at hockey festival

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— Pee Wee hockey goalie Jeff Dawes had the chance to go up against some out-of-state teams in the Ski Town USA Hockey Festival last year. But this year his opponents were a lot closer to home; in fact, one of them actually lived in his home.

On Saturday afternoon, Jeff Dawes had the task of defending the cage from his goal-hungry little brother, Matt. The 10-year-old Squirt player, who is also a goaltender, shocked his brother by sliding two goals past him.

"He's a goalie. I didn't think he could shoot that well," Jeff Dawes said. "When we play at home, he is great at shooting with the ball, but he can't really shoot the puck at all."

In Saturday's festival game, the Squirt, Pee Wee and Under 15 girls teams were combined and divided into two squads. Matt Dawes' back-to-back goals during the third period tied the game at three and helped his team win, 6-4.

Saturday's game was only the second time this year that Jeff played against Matt. In the previous matchup, both Dawes were goalies.

The combination of hockey camps and teams ending their seasons left the Pee Wee tournament with few available teams and gave the Dawes brothers the rare chance to play each other during Steamboat's Hockey festival.

"I'd prefer to be playing out-of-state teams because I enjoy that level of play. But just to play a game and (playing local teams) didn't bother me at all. It was still a lot of fun," Jeff Dawes said.

Teams that usually appear at the Steamboat tournament were down players because of state evaluation camps at the Pee Wee and Bantam levels and tryouts for a state tournament team. Many of the Midget teams just returned from a tournament in Dallas, and were unavailable for the Steamboat tournament.

Other teams ended their seasons earlier this month.

Only the Bantam age division was able to field a four-team tournament as it pulled teams from Fort Collins, Salt Lake City and St. Louis.

To replace teams that normally came to the hockey festival, the Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association decided to use more local teams than it had in the last six years.

The Pee Wee team played the Squirts team Friday and today will play an Intermountain game. The high school-aged Midget team played the local adult league, the Stampedes, in exhibition games Friday and Saturday night.

The hockey association relies on the tournament weekend as its main fund-raising event, said fund-raising chair and tournament director Kim Bonner.

The money raised this year will probably be lower than average because the hockey program will not have the $850 registration fee that the Pee Wee and Midget teams pay to play in the tournament. But, money pulled in from the concession stand, silent auction and raffle tickets, which are mainly supported by local hockey fans, should remain strong, Bonner predicted.

The hockey association is looking to move the date of the annual tournament to earlier in the season, Bonner said, but would still like to have a weekend that celebrates hockey in Steamboat and includes all the local teams.

Bonner, who helps coach the girls under 15 team, said Saturday's Pee Wee game was a great chance for the players to adjust to new teammates and practice passing instead of looking to score.

A handful of the Pee Wee players were expected to play in the Bantam game against St. Louis later on that day. But they still played in the Pee Wee game unwilling to pass up a chance to play against the girls, Bonner said. And, while the girls team was excited to be included in the tournament this year, some of them wished the rules to Saturday's game would have allowed checking, which women's hockey prohibits.

"I skied on boys teams for my whole life," Sis Atkinson said. "I wish there was checking."

Pee Wee coach Todd Sawyer said the game was a nice mix of talent with the older Squirts close in ability with the Pee Wee players and a strong goalie from the girls under 15 team.

"It was a lot of fun," Sawyer said. "It's a good way to get ice time. The Pee Wee tournament did not come to pass as we hoped it would, but the kids had a blast. And hockey is supposed to be fun at this level. We go out there and have fun playing the game."

And, while the mixed level game might have been fun for the players out on the ice, Matt and Jeff Dawes were not quite sure what to expect when they got home after the game.

"My family will probably make fun of me," Jeff said.

And Matt predicted the final score had not ended on the ice.

"There will probably be some wrestling, some ball throwing, some kicking, a little pushing around," he said.

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