“What a great hockey experience for our kids and their families to travel to Minnesota, where hockey is such a tradition. To play against quality teams was a great thrill. We learned a ton from these games and our confidence grew throughout the weekend. We couldn’t be more proud of the way our kids battled for each other.” Miles Steele-Arapahoe Maize Peewee A hockey coach.
Most scientists know that when they have invented something, they need to test that invention. If the invention involves strength, they need to test it against something that will determine their invention’s strength. But what level of strength should the test be?
The Arapahoe Maize coaches were faced with that question. They had decided to test their team at a level higher than they felt their team could play. They wanted the challenge.
Four D8 teams and the Mpls Storm stepped forward to “test” the Maize and out of that grew an Arapahoe tour of the Twin City area, one that involved playing at the Mariucci Arena, playing outdoors, and playing in one of the best small town youth hockey venues, Farmington. Playing at St. Thomas Academy’s rink was just the “frosting on the cake”.
The Maize were in the cities from December 27-30th, a Thursday to Sunday week end. They played their first game Thursday night at Mariucci Arena against the Lakeville North Peewee B1.
Friday, they had two outdoor games scheduled; one against the Apple Valley B1 and one against the Mpls Storm B1 Orange (the only non-D8 team they played). The games were played at Coon Rapids new outdoor ice rink.
Saturday’s game united an old friendship between coaches when the Maize played the Sibley Red B1 and Sunday morning’s game was in a great small town hockey setting in Farmington against the Tiger’s B1 team.
The Arapahoe team felt they were stepping up and playing at a competitive level higher than the team could experience playing outside Minnesota.
All four D8 teams they played were from associations that had only one A or AA team and one B1 team. The Mpls Storm team had one A team and two B1 teams (Orange and Purple). The Maize played the Orange.
The Maize may not be playing each association’s best; the Arapahoe’s association’s best, the AA Warriors, were doing that at the Edina Invitational Tournament. The Maize were playing the best after that.
It was the challenge the Maize coaches wanted.
Thursday’s Lakeville North game was tied at the end of the first period 2-2. The Panthers took a 5-3 lead at the end of the second and won 7-4. Lakeville’s Connor Bennett scored a hat trick. Arapahoe Goalie Evan Crawford stopped two penalty shots. The kids got to tour the Gopher’s locker room and facilities.
But the highlights of the event for both teams were well beyond the details of the game.
“The highlights centered on sharing a love for the game of hockey with teams from different states, centered on playing at Mariucci Arena, and centered on a gift exchange by players from both teams and a center-ice group picture after the game,” said Chad Langhorst, Lakeville North team manager. The players from both teams received souvenir “official game pucks” to mark the event.
What happened at Mariucci Thursday marked what would happen at every game the Arapahoe team played on their tour. Friday, the Arapahoe team played two outdoor games at the Coon Rapids Ice Center. They lost to the Apple Valley Peewee B1 team 2-1 and to the Mpls Storm Orange 4-3.
The Apple Valley game was played under a sun clouded afternoon winter sky (separate YHH story); the Mpls Storm game was played under a smoky moon.
Under that smoky moon, the Storm took a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period and added two goals in the second to take a 3-0 lead. Late in the second period, Arapahoe’s Neal Sklar scored with an assist from Cristian Bemiller to cut the lead to 3-1. The Storm scored early in the third period to take a 4-1 lead, but to their credit, Arapahoe came “storming back” to cut the lead to 4-3 and pressure the Storm net as the game was ending.
Neal Sklar and McClain Beaudette scored for the Maize. One of the stronger players for the Orange was Joey Heimbold whose brother Peter plays defense for Benilde-St Margaret’s high school.
The Storm went on to play in the Edina Peewee B1 Invitational tourney on Saturday. The Orange made it to the Championship round on Sunday before losing to the Minnetonka Blue 4-0.
Saturday afternoon, the Arapahoe team played the Sibley Red at the St. Thomas Academy rink. The game was tied 0-0 after the first period. Halfway through the second period, a Maize player took a hard shot on the Sibley goalie. The puck climbed the goalie and fell just beyond the goalie’s outstretched skate to the right side of the crease to the Maize’s Alec Clair. Clair banged the puck into the net. Arapahoe went on to win the game 3-1.
Sunday morning at Farmington, the Maize received royal welcome. The Tigers had recruited a “good announcer” and he was having a good time. The Tigers scored first on a power play goal, but Arapahoe scored twice in the first period to take a 2-1 and go on to win 7-4.
What Miles Steele said about his team could be said about all 5 teams and their associations. The associations and parents couldn’t be more proud of the way their kids battled for each other.
Once the adults become facilitators of youth hockey and are not focused on governance, good things happen for the kids, and the kids take care of the rest. That is when Minnesota hockey is at its best.
For the Arapahoe team, they took the big chance and laid down the money, the time, and the effort in the belief that everything would work out. That was no small thing to do in today’s economy.
District 8’s approach to youth hockey is to encourage teams to find to do things such as entertaining a visiting team like Arapahoe. District 8 encourages by not constraining or discouraging. Some would call their approach “old school” and some would call it common sense.
Lakeville North team (players, coaches, and parents) started the ball rolling for the Arapahoe team, Apple Valley joined in and were encouraged to do so by the Minneapolis Storm team. The Sibley Red found they had mutual friends and it was easy to play the game. As for Farmington, they rolled out the red carpet for Arapahoe’s Sunday visit.
Then all the D8 teams and the Mpls Storm went out on the ice and tried to beat up the Maize. It was a test.
As Erik Williams, the Apple Valley coach said after their game with the Maize, “The Arapahoe team would be in the upper six teams in D8’s Peewee B1 league this year if they played a whole season. They needed to find some competition to test themselves, to prove to themselves that they could play at that level. They did”.
To those kids on the teams involved, YHH offers this: some succeeded in winning, and some didn’t win their game. But all those involved won. You may not understand that today, but 10 or 20 years from now, you will remember.
When the kids do remember, it will be a good memory. That is what makes the parents involved proud. That is what makes hockey great.