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Vail Squirts Victorious in Albuquerque Chili Pepper Tourny

Written by Coach Barry Biegler - 2/17/98   Pictures from the Weekend

On Februrary 14-17th, the Vail Squirt AA team travelled to Alburquerqe, New Mexico for the Chili Pepper Tournament, held annually with teams from around the country.  It was a busy weekend, with games starting as early as 4:30am on Thursday, February 13th, and a championship game Monday afternoon. 

Schedule and Format

There were eight teams in the squirt (age 10-11) division, and they were initially seeded in two divisions.  Round robins were held in each division:

Division A Division B
Vail, Colorado Houston, Texas
Albuquerque, New Mexico Dallas, Texas
Boulder, Colorado Littleton, Colorado
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Colorado Springs, Colorado

Round Robin Play - Game 1

The Round robin play was very challenging for all teams.  Of the eight teams, only two would qualify for the championship game on Monday.  Teams would most likely have to win all 3 round robin games to have a chance to be victorious.   Vail drove into town on Friday (about 7 hours) and played the first game at 8:15 on Monday morning, 2/14/98, against the home town Albuquerque Red Devils.  We felt this would be a difficult challenge.  The team was very fired up and played a great team game, winning 7-2.

Round Robin Play - Game 2

The second round robin game was only 4 hours after the first, at 1:00 on Saturday.  The team had enough time for breakfast and back to the rink!   Its a good thing that 10 year olds recover quickly.  Vail played a determined Boulder, Colorado team, and pulled out a 6-2 victory with four goals in the third period.

Exploring Albuquerque

Hockey tournaments usually have some quirks in the schedule, and the Albuquerque Chili Pepper tourny was no exception. After playing two games on Saturday with four hours, the next game was not until Sunday night at 8:45pm.  This gave the team 30 hours without a game.  The kids made the most of it with swimming, floor hockey, a visit to the aquarium (a must for all visitors), movies, and general hanging around.   For those of you who haven't done a hockey trip, just imagine 12 boys and 30 hours to kill.  Many of the players seem to enjoy the camaraderie as much as the games!

Round Robin Play - Game 3

After a full day of exploring Albuquerque on Sunday, (2/15/98), the kids were pretty tired for the 8:45pm game against Oklahoma City. One of the challenges and life lessons from hockey is to learn how to play well, even when tired.   Vail started slowly, but woke up with a four goal third period to emerge with an 8-4 victory.  All in all, a great day.

Cross Division Play - Game 4

After the round robin play, there was a cross division game on Monday morning (2/16/98).  The first place team in division "A" played team 4 from division "B", etc.   The first of these games started at 4:30am, which is a bit crazy.    I would like to see USA hockey, or somebody, make a rule that no tournament game can start before 7:00am or after 10:00pm.   A 4:30am game means you are getting 10 year old kids out of bed at 3:00am!

Since Vail was the #1 seed in our division we didn't have to play at 4:30am, for which I was eternally grateful.  We drew a 7:45am game against Dallas.   It was 2-2 after two periods, and Vail again scored four unanswered goals in the third for a 6-2 victory.  Our 8,000 foot home rink provides high altitude training, and it certainly has been paying off in the third this tournament.

Championship Play - Game 5

With a 4-0 record, Vail qualified for Championship game four hours after game 4.  Houston was also 4-0, so it was a match up of undefeated teams. The Vail team prepared for the game by going to the mall and playing in the arcade for several hours.  In fact, the talk in the locker room was about the cool new arcade games they had discovered!  Ah, to be 10 again!  As I told the kids in the locker room, it doesn't matter if they win or lose.  What matters is:

  1. Try as hard as you can
  2. Play smart hockey - no penalties
  3. Use a team game (pass and help out)
  4. Play to our strength, which is speed and conditioning

The kids listened very carefully to my 3 minute speech, and then asked if there would be time to go back to the arcade after the game!  It doesn't sound like the pressure got to them.

The championship was very hard fought, with two evenly matched teams.  Vail was losing 2-1 about half way through the game, but again had a strong end game, scoring five goals to win 6-3.  Each player got a hat with "Albuquerque Champions" on it.  Skating around the rink with the big trophy and hats was a reward all the kids had earned. 

Summary

We had a seven hour drive home, arriving about 11:00pm. Then back to school and work the next day.  Hockey trips can become a blur, with one trip blending into the other.  Win or lose, we always create memories and friends wherever we go, and which is our ultimate goal.   

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Email Barry Biegler - Barry@Resortdata.com