Photo courtesy of Devin Strong
Photo courtesy of Doug Sheridan
Team Colorado was in uncharted territory when it arrived at its hotel in St. Louis in late April.
Appearing in America’s Showcase, a national invitational tournament fielding teams from 12 different states, Team Colorado had a mixup with transportation arrangements and needed to find a ride just hours before their first game.
Fortunately, Coach Doug Sheridan secured a hotel shuttle van to transport all 20 players and their equipment.
“We show up to the arena and a team we’re about to play comes off this coach bus, and here we come in the clown mobile — a hotel shuttle packed with hockey players with gear climbing out one-by-one,” Sheridan said with a laugh.
Despite the comical entrance, Team Colorado was no joke, trouncing Indiana 5-1 in the opening game of the showcase. It was its only win of the tournament, but the early adversity helped galvanize the group of Colorado high school hockey players.
“It really connected us. We were so close together, literally” Ralston Valley junior Devin Strong said of the ride in the hotel shuttle. “We were smushed, but it was all laughs the whole time.”
Consisting of nine seniors, eight juniors and three sophomores from 14 different Colorado High School Activities (CHSAA) programs, Team Colorado had just two practices together before the national showcase that hosted 16 teams from 12 different states in the boys' division.
Whether it was getting to and from the rink by shuttle van, school bus or U-Haul, or adjusting to Sheridan’s shuffling of the lineup, Team Colorado handled the changes in stride.
A lot of us can be the hero in Colorado, but once we got to [St. Louis] it was a whole different beast,” Strong said. “It took a little bit to get the chemistry built up, but once we got some in-game situations I felt good about our chances.”
Strong helped spark a four-goal second period against Indiana. After Valor Christian forward Owen Walsh found fellow Eagles forward Brooks Wright for a goal just seven seconds into the middle period, Strong assisted a goal by Harrison Follett (Cherry Creek) 49 seconds later. Gabriel Harrison (Monarch) scored midway through the period, followed by a goal by Walsh that gave Team Colorado a commanding five-goal lead entering the final period.
Team Colorado played Missouri Blue the next game and took the tournament host to overtime in a 4-3 loss. Chase Chapman (Doherty) and Harrison scored third-period goals to force the extra session. Missouri Blue went on to finish second in the showcase.
In their final game in pool play, Team Colorado dropped a 6-2 loss to Arizona, leading to Team Colorado drawing Texas in the quarterfinal round of the final bracket.
Down two goals entering the final period against Texas, Brogan Andrus (Colorado Academy and Jack Wallace (Lewis-Palmer) found the back of the net to keep their team in striking distance. Sheridan said his team his at least six pipes in the final period, but Team Colorado couldn’t find the equalizer, falling 4-3 in their final game of the tournament.
But despite the final loss, Sheridan came away encouraged by the team’s performance and how it competed throughout the weekend.
“They were really playing for each other. They learned how to bond as a team in such a short period of time,” Sheridan said. “That’s a testament of who they are as humans. No matter what happens they’re going to be good teammates wherever they go."
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