Making history: Foothills’ Pee Wee AA squad off to Quebec
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When the Foothills Flyers’ Pee Wee AA team defeated the Littleton Hawks Pee Wee AA squad at the Pepsi Center on Nov. 21, it not only entitled the Flyers to take a February road trip to Quebec, but it made history as well.
After the Flyers downed the Hawks 2-1 at the home of the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, Foothills earned the organization’s first berth in the Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament, an event that spans nearly 60 years. This year’s tournament runs Feb. 8-19 at various rinks in and around Quebec City and as winners of the Quebec Qualifier, the Flyers will don Avalanche jerseys at the event.
“It’s very exciting,” said Foothills head coach Ken Klee. “It’s exciting for our team and our association to be able to go and represent the Avalanche in such a prestigious tournament.”
The Colorado Thunderbirds’ 12U AAA team, led by head coach Zach Blom, assistant coaches Curtis Duffus and Milan Hejduk and goalie coach Buddy Blom, will also join Foothills in Quebec.
In the Quebec Qualifier championship final after a scoreless first period, Holden Spence gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal, but Kristopher Apple-Duncan knotted it up for Littleton going into the third period.
The Hawks were whistled for a penalty with five minutes remaining and just four seconds into the man advantage, Reid Conn buried the game winner and the Flyers held off Littleton the rest of the way.
Heading into the championship final, Klee said his team was confident, having already defeated the Hawks earlier in the season at the Silver Stick Rocky Mountain Regional championship in Westminster.
“Our kids knew that they had been there and had gotten the job done once,” said Klee. “They were excited to get the opportunity to do it again.”
The Flyers roster includes forwards Christian Carter, J.C. Carter, Evan Criswell, David Klee, Nathaniel Patasse, Tyler Riegle, Mason Ripley and Spence; defensemen Boston Crone, Jonah Frederick, Dominick Pharris, Tyler Twinam and Conn; and goaltenders Liam Lane and Tanner Osolinski.
Klee, who skated more than 900 games in the NHL with Washington, Toronto, New Jersey, Atlanta, Anaheim, Phoenix and Colorado (2006-07), said watching the Pee Wee players celebrate tops anything he accomplished in the NHL, which included a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998 with the Capitals.
“It’s definitely a thrill, getting to coach and teach and watch these kids now brings me joy and when they have big moments, it’s certainly exciting as a player, a coach and as a parent,” said Klee. “It’s exciting to be a part of it.”
In Quebec, the Flyers players will live with host families, or billets, and will take in the culture off the ice that the province has to offer.
“The experience is extraordinary, from what I have heard,” Klee said. “We’ll definitely be talking about everything before we get up there.”
Looking at the Pee Wee team overall, Klee said he “has a special group of kids here.”
“We have a thin team (in terms of numbers), but we have a really hard-working team,” explained Klee. “We only carry 13 skaters, so everyone is counted on to contribute and try to help the team as best they can. I think it’s been a really nice fit as far as the kids chipping in at different times and just being a really solid team to play against. Our three returning skaters – Conn, Klee and Spence – are a big part of our team, and we also rely on solid goaltending with our returning goalie (Osolinski) and our newcomer (Lane).
“We’re pushing up towards our ceiling. Our team is on a high right now and it’s really fun to be a part of this.”
— Matt Mackinder