Tahoe Grizzlies Pee Wee hockey team headed to Canada for International Silver Stick Finals
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Riding a streak of two straight tournament championships, the Tahoe Grizzlies Pee Wee hockey team has high hopes of achieving its ultimate goal this weekend, Jan. 7-10, at the International Silver Stick Finals in Pelham, Ontario.
That objective is simply to have fun.
“Our goal is to have fun, always,” Grizzlies coach Mike Gunderson said. “Regardless of the outcome of the game, if the kids play 100 percent and have fun I’m going to be happy.”
The South Tahoe Amateur Hockey Association pee wee age group squad includes players from South Lake Tahoe, Reno/Sparks, Incline Village, Truckee and Carson Valley.
The Grizzlies are entered in the pee wee division that features teams from across North America in an event hosted by the Pelham Minor Hockey Association in Ontario’s Niagara Region. They opened Thursday morning, Jan. 7, against the Wonderland Wizards from Bridgeport, Connecticut, followed by a matchup against the Winterhawks from Milton, Ontario.
As a tune-up for the International Silver Stick Finals, the Grizzlies won their division at the Golden State Hockey Rush Tournament, where they went 3-1 on an outdoor rink at Raley Field in Sacramento home to the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats. The Grizzlies lost 3-2 in a preliminary game, but came back in the championship round to turn the tables on the same Bakersfield team by the same score on Thursday, Dec. 31.
“The kids played their hearts out,” Gunderson said. “That Bakersfield team we played was 8-0 before the championship.”
Even though his son, Drew, received the tournament MVP award, coach Gunderson was quick to point out the team-first philosophy.
“We’ve stressed the team approach from day one,” he said. “It’s always a team effort.”
This team has come a long way since it first organized in the fall to prepare for its Northern California Junior Hockey Association and tournament season. After returning from Canada, the Grizzlies are scheduled to play in another tournament on their home ice at the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena on Martin Luther King weekend.
The Grizzlies are currently third in their regular season league standings with a 5-3-1 record.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this group,” Gunderson said. “We have a good combination of rookies and experienced veterans. And it’s made me proud to see how the veterans have worked with the younger kids to help make them better players.”
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