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Hub exclusive: Youth Cup Qualifier sends eight Colorado squads to NHL-affiliated tournament

By John Wagner, SportsEngine, 09/13/19, 1:15PM MDT


The event on Sept. 6-8 showcased some of the state's best club teams and may signal that Colorado hockey is ready for a breakout performance on the national stage.

Photos from the Colorado Avalanche NHL Youth Cup Qualifier, which featured 26 of the state’s top teams playing in divisions at levels 10U to 18U.

The 2019-20 Colorado youth hockey season started with a bang as the Avalanche hosted its annual NHL Youth Cup Qualifier Sept. 6-8.

Teams from around the state competed in eight different age groups for a title – as well as for a berth in the NHL Youth Cup, a national tournament that will be played at several locations later this year and early in 2020.

“This was the first weekend [of play] for a lot of these teams – and for the refs as well,” said Jason MacPherson, the Avalanche’s program manager for amateur hockey. “Teams have been practicing, and refs have been involved with clinics and such, but it was fun to get back on the ice and play games.”

The Rocky Mountain RoughRiders 16U team won a title in one of eight age divisions at the Colorado Avalanche Youth Cup Qualifier tournament on Sept. 6-8. The team also qualified for the upcoming NHL Youth Cup. Photo courtesy of Colorado Avalanche

“It’s natural that, when you are in Year 1, it’s challenging to start a new tournament in Tier 1 because teams already have crazy schedules filled with travel,” he said. “I think last year and this year teams have been excited to come to this tournament. This tournament gives these teams a chance to get into ‘game’ mode before they start playing league games and traveling. It’s a good way to get used to the speed and physicality of games compared to practices. It’s a good tune-up for the season.”

Teams from the Colorado Thunderbirds organization won titles at six of the eight levels (10U, 12U to 15U and 18U) at the Youth Cup Qualifier, with the Krivo School of Hockey Elite claiming the crown at 11U and the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders winning at 16U. 

"It shows how much Colorado hockey has grown. And being involved in the NHL Youth Cup gives us a chance to put our youth hockey on the national map."

  — Jason MacPherson,
Program Manager for
Amateur Hockey Development
with the Colorado Avalanche

MacPherson said the level of play at the tournament was phenomenal and that the event was very competitive for the most part. 

“For example, the 16U championship went to overtime and was decided in a shootout. And we had several ties during the tournament,” he added.

The Avalanche enjoys hosting the Youth Cup qualifying tournament each year because it elevates the level of hockey played around the state, MacPherson said.

“Being one of the (NHL) teams that doesn’t have an affiliate program, this is our opportunity to showcase the best hockey teams and players in Colorado,” he said. “It shows how much Colorado hockey has grown. And being involved in the NHL Youth Cup gives us a chance to put our youth hockey on the national map.”

The Krivo School of Hockey Elite claimed the 11U crown. Photo courtesy of Colorado Avalanche

The eight Colorado teams that qualified for the NHL Youth Cup each received a championship banner to hang in their home arena.

They also have a chance to carry the banner of Colorado hockey onto a national stage when they represent the state at the national tournament.

Some teams will be playing “home” games because the Avalanche hosts the boys' 10U, 12U and 14U championships, as well as inaugural title games for Tier 1 girls' 16U and 18U and Tier 2 girls' 12U and 14U in January. 

“We’ll have the Pepsi Center available, so we’ll utilize that as much as possible,” MacPherson said. “For each division, we are planning to have a central location [for their games] so teams don’t have to travel to different rinks; they’ll have their own ‘home’ rink to play their games.”

The Avalanche look forward to the chance to bring the elite youth event to Denver, MacPherson said.

“This is our first year hosting the NHL Youth Cup, and this puts us on the map,” he said. “To bring the best of the best here is huge. Plus, our local teams get to stay at home and get a chance to show just how competitive they are.”

MacPherson said running the Youth Cup qualifier was good preparation for hosting the national event.

“We got a lot of positive feedback from the participating organizations, from directors and coaches,” he said. “I even got positive feedback from the refs! They said they had a great time, and they were pleased that we didn’t change any game times on them.”

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