The Mini 1-on-1 Challenge gives youth goalies the opportunity shut down skaters with stick and gloves saves. Visit www.co.hockey/mini1on1 for more info. Photo by Colorado Avalanche
Ten-year-olds Alex Watren and Jorgan Bliss skated on the Pepsi Center ice last January, showing off their hockey skills in front of Colorado Avalanche players and the team’s thousands of fans.
“It was so amazing meeting all the Avalanche players and getting to sit next to [Philipp] Grubauer,” said Watren, a fellow goalie.
Bliss, who plays forward, also carries standout memories of the experience.
“It was really fun and exhilarating,” Bliss said, reflecting on meeting the Avs captain, Gabriel Landeskog. “I was wearing a Landeskog jersey and he came up to me. He was like, ‘Hey, nice shirt.”
The duo earned the opportunity by winning the U10 division of the Avalanche Mini 1-on-1 Challenge, an annual youth tournament hosted by the team designed to crown the state's best shootout goalies and scorers.
Now in its fourth season, the tournament separates competitors into four divisions: U8, U10, U12 and U14, and the championships provide an opportunity for participants to meet Avalanche players and skate at the Pepsi Center.
There are six qualifiers remaining at the following locations: Dobson Ice Arena, Apex Ice Center, Budweiser Events Center, Aspen Ice Garden, Monument Ice Rinks and the Pepsi Center. Participants compete head-to-head to be one of two scorers with the most goals or the goaltender with the fewest goals allowed.
Winners advance to the semifinal round at the Pepsi Center on Jan. 1, when shootouts will whittle the field in each division to three shooters and three goalies and eventually the winners.
“It’s a fun thing we like to do for the hockey programs in the state, just to mix it up in the middle of the season,” said Connor Duckhorn, program manager of amateur hockey development for the Avalanche.
“I was a San Jose Sharks fan before,” he said. “But after getting to meet all the Avs players and be a part of the organization, it really touched me and now I root for the Avalanche.”
The next qualifier is Dec. 1 at Dobson Ice Arena in Vail. You can find a complete qualifying schedule, tournament details and register at: https://www.co.hockey/mini1on1.