‘Long shot’ Arapahoe victorious in Quebec Qualifier
Going into the 2015 Quebec Qualifier Tournament, Arapahoe Warriors AA coach Sean Leonard considered his squad an underdog to win the 13-team event and represent the Colorado Avalanche at the prestigious Quebec International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament in February.
After blanking both the Colorado Springs Tigers and NCYH Jr. Eagles to open the tournament, Leonard started to get a vibe that a trip to Quebec City may be in the works.
“We put in a lot of hard work and two weeks out, we had some scrimmages and some games set up where our boys started showing what they were capable of doing and our team’s confidence started to grow,” said Leonard. “At the beginning of the season, I’d say we were a long shot to win the Quebec Qualifier.”
The Warriors then toppled the DU Jr. Pioneers 4-3 in the quarterfinals, the Littleton Hawks Red team 6-1 in the semifinals and the defending Quebec Qualifier champion Boulder Bison 3-1 in the championship on Nov. 16 at the Pepsi Center.
“We knew there would be some tough competition going into the finals,” Leonard said. “It was a lot closer than a 3-1 game and was never a clinched game for sure. Our boys battled through and stuck with it.”
Arapahoe came out of the preliminary round as the No. 1 seed with no goals-against and in playing DU, it was competing against the squad that eliminated them from the recent International Silver Stick regionals in Westminster.
“We knew DU would be a tough draw and a tough game and it was one of the closest games we had in the whole tournament,” said Leonard. “In our semifinal game, we didn’t take Littleton Red lightly and having played them before, we felt we could come out and play a pretty good game against them.”
In the championship, Thomas Faber scored the game’s first goal for the Bison before Jack Chandler answered for Arapahoe late in the first period. Andrew Gleason and Jonathan Cole netted second-period goals for Arapahoe and that ended the scoring. Arapahoe goalie Michael Estep finished with 14 saves for the win.
Cole scored a goal in every game and had seven points (six goals, assist) in five games and Chandler had nine points (three goals, six assists) in the tournament for the Warriors.
“Winning the Quebec Qualifier means to me that all the hard work our team put in to it paid off for a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” said Arapahoe captain Landon Boyd. “It’s an honor to say that our team has the chance to represent the Avalanche. It was awesome to win the Quebec Qualifier in the Pepsi Center where some of the best hockey players play.”
The Quebec event runs Feb. 10-21 and the players will live with host families, getting not only a chance to play in a foreign country, but to experience the Canadian environment as well.
Leonard said the plan is to have the Warriors play in the ‘AA’ division at the event where winning is obviously a priority, “but we just want to have fun.”
The Warriors are forwards Wil Beaudette, Jackson Bryant, Chandler, Cole, Levi Gauerke, Gleason, Dillon Leonard, Payne Pent and Landen Shay, Boyd, Nick Chandler, Sergio Padilla, Harrison Proctor, Eugene Riewe and Dane Westen on the back end and Estep and Gavin Holvick in the crease.
Leonard also acknowledged Arapahoe travel director Randy Murphy, organization goalie coach Dean Klemenz and the entire coaching staff as key components to the team’s success this year.
“From the very first time we got together a few months ago, we always discussed playing a disciplined, team game and the importance of each player contributing,” said Leonard. “Everyone participated and contributed in their own way in the Qualifier, so that’s what we were most proud of. It was a total team victory.”
The Colorado Thunderbirds will also represent Colorado by sending their Pee Wee AAA team, coached by Matt Frick, to Quebec.
— Matt Mackinder