Westminster, CO- Defeat. That’s what Team Midwest felt after last years Silver Stick championship game. The team finished pool play at 3-0-1 and grabbed the #2 overall seed before losing the championship game by a score of 6-2. The 2018 team returners kept that game in the back of their mind all tournament long. “We had something to prove after last year’s disappointment. Coming in second is one of the worst feelings, winning silver sticks is what this team plays for and we wanted to show that not only could the Midwest play against the best, but we could beat the best. Having such a close team that shared a common goal made that possible,” assistant captain Ryan Carlson said.
Coming off a sweep of Shattuck St. Mary’s it would have been easy for Team Midwest to have come in over confident and play a couple of tight games right off the bat, but the players just let the schedule prepare them for the tournament. “Our early schedule allowed us to get acclimated to the speed, strength and skill of the teams we would be playing in Colorado,” defensemen Dane Hickey said. The team picked up right where they left off on day 1 of the tournament beating Arizona by a score of 14-2 and the Cougars 13-0. “After the first day of the tournament, I knew our team was not here to mess around and was honestly ready to take out everything that came in their way of a championship,” coach Harrahill said.
Day 2 brought a different set of challenges, in a chippy game against Team Wyoming, where it started getting heated, the leadership of Team Midwest stepped up and kept everyone out of trouble and the team was on the powerplay most of the game and took out Wyoming 10-1. In the final game of pool play it was the 2 undefeated teams left in the tournament battling for the top overall seed. Team Midwest had never been the 1 seed after the tournaments pool play. Team Midwest and the Mustangs battled to a tight 2-1 first period and then Team Midwest came out of the locker room on fire. The team scored 4 second period goals and held that score to win the game 6-1 and grabbed the #1 overall seed after pool play.
On championship Sunday, Team Midwest was ready to take on a Cougar Club team who was ready for an upset. Team Midwest started the scoring early in the first and jumped to a quick 2-0 lead but then the Cougars responded with a hard working goal to make it 2-1 in the first period. The team was unphased and Team Midwest took over after that scoring 6 more goals en route to an 8-1 semi final victory. In the other semi final game the Coyotes and Mustangs battled to a 0-0 tie in regulation and after two overtimes and the Mustangs prevailed in a six round shootout to set up a rematch of the two teams.
The boys got a late checkout, got some rest and were ready to make the 5 minute bus trip to the arena and prepare for a championship. Eric Wisnousky got the nod for the championship game start and he did not disappoint. The first period was a fury of shots for both teams with Team Midwest putting 17 on net and the Mustangs throwing 11 at Wiz, however no goals were scored. Early in the second period the dubbed “Law Firm” line of Grady Brown, Andrew Kramer and Brock James got Team Midwest on the board with Brown taking the puck around the defensemen and ripping a shot high blocker side. The teams exchanged blows the rest of the period but ended up 1-0 after two. The third period began and the fight for the championship ensued. Both teams had opportunities but both goaltenders stood on their heads giving their team an opportunity to win the game. Finally, with under two minutes left in the 3rd, Dawson Zeutenhorst stole the puck at their defensive blue line and moved it up to the teams leading scorer, Clark Krueger who was then on a breakaway and put it away low blocker side to ice the game at 2-0.
The buzzer sounded and Team Midwest threw their gloves in the air and got to hoist the Silver Stick . With the win the team is honored to represent the Rocky Mountain Regional and the MHSHL at the International Finals in Sarnia, Ontario in January. “We have a lot of talent to make something special happen and we are on a roll,” team captain Carter Hobbs said.
The players will go back to playing with their regular season teams but the bond that was created with these players is unlike any other before. “These players loved each other, they played for each other, supported each other, and they were one of the most fun hockey teams I have ever had an opportunity to coach, I wish everyone luck in the regular season and can’t wait to be back together in January,” Harrahill said.