The Monsters salute their fans following the bronze medal victory

Posing in front of the rink after the last game

Colorado Springs Hockey Tournament


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The Trip          Travel Notes          Hockey Tournament


There's a lot of hockey in this report, so instead of writing it in strict chronological order, I've put the trip stuff first, and the hockey stuff last. This is for the benefit of those of you who don't care about hockey (you know who you are, and shame on you).


The Trip

At the start of the Fresno Jr. Monsters hockey season, the Midget team coach announced that they would be going to a tournament in Colorado Springs over the President's Day weekend. Thus, for the fourth time in 13 months, I found myself on a plane, this time with daughter Teri and grandson Mikie. Our route there required stops in Las Vegas and Denver, but none were very long, and our departure and arrival times were at a civilized hour.

We left home on Thursday, February 13, 2014, for a 3:25 p.m. flight, and arrived in Colorado Springs a little after 10 p.m. We picked up our rental car, a very nice Nissan Altima with keyless ignition, and arrived at the Doubletree Hilton after a short drive.

We had eaten breakfast that morning, but not much in between, so we were ready for dinner, despite the late hour. There was Denny's visible from the hotel, and we quickly determined that it would be easier to walk than to drive, our route taking us over a wood rail fence, and across a divided 4-lane street that had a fair amount of fast traffic, but plenty of long breaks that allowed us to cross safely. Temperatures in the 40s made it an exhilarating but not uncomfortable walk.

With the first game the next day not scheduled till 1:30, we were able to sleep late and still have plenty of time before we had to leave for the rink. I try to maintain my morning exercise walk program when traveling, so I went out before breakfast, to be greeted by a very strong wind and a temperature around 35 degrees. Next to where we were parked, at the back of the hotel, there was a wooden rail fence, with a path running along a drainage ditch, a perfect place for walking. Past the parking lot, on the side opposite from the ditch, was a large pond that stretched toward other nearby hotels. It was about half iced over, and half open water, and occupied by many ducks and geese.

With the wind and cold, I only walked a hundred yards or so before turning back. I got into the warm hotel just in time to join Teri for our complimentary breakfast.

The players have to be at the rink an hour before game time, and we had a 30 minute drive, so we lazed around the hotel until time to go, leaving about 11:45. The first game was in the hockey arena at the US Air Force Academy , a very nice facility. With quite a bit of time before the game, Teri and I went out to walk, and after a short distance on a sidewalk, found a nice, well-worn path along the road that was much more comfortable for walking. We went quite a ways, cutting through an area covered with short, dry grass and pine trees, and got back to the rink in plenty of time for the game.

After a game, the players are ready for a big meal, so we went back toward our hotel and went to a Chili's a short distance away.

We had another game at 9:15 p.m., this one about 15 miles away, so we had a pretty good amount of time to rest and read, while the boys hung out in groups watching TV or playing video games. After the evening game, Teri and I didn't want a meal, but of course, Mikie had to be fed, so we went to a Carl's Jr. where he got a cheeseburger and we all got milkshakes. Because it was after 11 p.m., we went to two other fast food places first before we found one that was open.

The next day, Saturday,  our game was not until 6:30 p.m., so everyone found something to do during the day. With much better weather in the morning, I did a longer walk, going all the way to another hotel, then back along a sidewalk that took me all the way around the pond. It was fun to watch the ducks and Canada geese, who walked around on the ice surface as if they had insulated feet.

We all had breakfast together, then went our separate ways. Teri was doing homework for an on-line class she's taking, so that kept her busy much of the time. Mikie and several other boys went to a nearby Italian fast food place in the afternoon, while I finished a turkey sandwich that I had saved from Chili's. I also did a lot of reading, as well as keeping up with my email on the iPad, and making notes for this report.

The game was at a different rink, the training facility for Colorado College, about ten minutes away on the campus. After the game, we debated what to eat, and at Mikie's suggestion, decided to try the Italian place, Fazoli's, which proved to be excellent. We were joined by one other parent and three of the players, all of whom ended up ordering the same thing they had eaten earlier in the day.

Here I'd like to mention one of the unexpected benefits of being part of a travel sports team. With the hour wait before games, the parents/grandparents/etc. get to know each other a little. There are quite a few parents in this group that are new or at least not well known to me, mostly those whose kids just moved up to the Midget level this year. There are also some we've known a long time, none longer than the man who joined us at Fazoli's, David Foster. I worked with him at the Department of Social Services long before I developed any interest in hockey. Then his son and stepson both played hockey with my older grandson. During those years his daughter had a son who David and his wife have raised, and he and Mikie started attending games when they were still being carried in. As they got older, they ran around and played together in the halls at the rink, and eventually wound up on the same team as they began playing organized games. So when we meet at a game, David and I just shake our heads and say, "here we are still at it after almost 20 years."

Just around the corner from Fazoli's was temptation, also known as  Baskin-Robins, so we all went over there for dessert after dinner, then got back to the hotel in time to do a little reading before bedtime.

On Sunday we again had plenty of time before the 3:30 game. Mikie went to breakfast early, then hung out with friends, while Teri went to church, so I had a long walk, followed by a solo breakfast. On my walk I found that I could go behind the next hotel and follow the dirt path a considerable distance before having to walk on asphalt or concrete. It took me within a few hundred yards of the World Arena where the game would be played later, so I scouted the best route (the Apple map program on my iPad gave a round-about four-mile route, while the actual location was only one mile).

When we arrived at the hotel we had been given a menu showing a special buffet each night for tournament participants. We decided to take advantage of this handy and reasonably priced meal, with Sunday's menu featuring hot wings, a taco bar and salad. It turned out to be a team meal, with all but a few of the parents and players joining together. As usual, the kids sat together, with the adults at another table, but as we were finishing our dinner, the team came over as a group. Teri described it best in this Facebook post: "So we had a team dinner with adults at one table and players at another. When the players were done they came over to our table and thanked the parents for bringing them to this tournament and for all our support. What an amazing group of young people. This is what is right with our world." Then, remembering the delights of succumbing to temptation the previous night, the boys all headed for Baskin-Robbins.

Rink arrival time for the boys the next morning was 6 a.m., so Teri and I walked across the street to a Target to get some granola bars for Mikie to eat for "breakfast." Some small cartons of ice cream accidentally fell into our basket, so we were forced to return to the hotel and get rid of them.

The next day was the final game, at 7 a.m. at the World Arena, where Colorado College plays its home games. Our flight home was not until 5:20 p.m., so we had a long period of free time. Following the game we went to Denny's for breakfast, then back to the hotel to decide what to do. I have long been aware of the Garden of the Gods, an area of sandstone rock formations north of Colorado Springs, and right next to the town of Manitou Springs. My parents had been there and spoke highly of it. Mikie and I stayed in Manitou Springs in 2004, but didn't visit the Garden. It sounded interesting to Teri, so we got checked out of the hotel and drove north a ways on I-25, then into the park.

The property was in private ownership, but was donated as a public park a number of years ago, with the provision that it always remain free to the public. Our GPS directions took us to a parking area on a rise where we could look across at one of the larger formations, after which we drove down the hill and turned back on a road that goes to the visitor center (closed on this day), and into the park. We reached a large parking area where you can walk through the rocks on paved trails, and set out on what proved to be about an hour walk.

The quarter-billion year old formations that rise above the surface here are mostly fine-grained sandstone and older pebbly or conglomerate rock, also predominately red sandstone. For some nice photos, go to the Garden of the Gods website and click on "Scenic." The background view of Pike's Peak on the home page is very similar to what we saw, but without clouds.

The trails through the park wind around the formations, and you can take shorter or longer walks as desired. Rock climbing with permit and proper equipment is permitted, and we saw at least a half dozen people making their way up the steep rocks. We had no desire to emulate them.

After finishing our walk, we drove a short distance past other formations to Balanced Rock, which is a large boulder just off the road that leads from the park to the nearby town of Manitou Springs. We stopped here for some photos and to get a good look, then drove out of the park. With plenty of time before we needed to get to the airport, we decided to go to the Pike's Peak Cog Railroad depot. Mikie and I had ridden to the top of the peak in 2004, but with the winter snows we had no desire to do that; however, I thought there was probably a museum.

It turned out that there was no parking close enough for us to walk, so we turned back and drove into downtown Manitou Springs, founded in 1872 as a scenic health resort. Today it is a quaint, old-looking town with plenty of places to get rid of money. We walked around a little, spending time in several shops, and buying a few items (my usual souvenir magnet; a sweatshirt for Mikie, and a book that Teri got for her 14-month old grandson).

By this time Mikie was hungry again, and all of us realized we could stand to eat, so we went into Ruffrano's Hell's Kitchen Pizza. Featuring New York style pizza, this proved to be an excellent choice, and all of us enjoyed our lunch.

Once we had finished eating, it was time to get on the road, so we returned to the car and drove southeast on US 24 to I-25, and from there to the airport. We still had close to an hour of waiting, but it passed quickly. Our homeward flight stopped in Denver with just enough time to walk to our departure gate, and we arrived back in Fresno a little after 8 p.m. on Monday, February 17. One of the best parts of this journey: Unlike our last three flights, we did not have to go through the LA Airport, where the minimum layover time seems to be 90 minutes.

Throughout our trip we had good to excellent weather. It was partly cloudy the first three days, but sunny all the last day. The wind was only really bad that first morning, and the hotel web site's promised views of Pike's Peak and the Cheyenne Mountain area proved to be accurate. There were piles of snow from plowing in various places, patches on the lower hills, and a nice white cover on Pike's Peak. The highs the first two days were in the 40s and 50s, rising to the 60s the last two days, with lows just above freezing.


Travel Notes

Although this was the fourth time that Mikie and I have been "on the ground" in Colorado, it was Teri's first time stepping outside an air terminal. She enjoyed the weather, the mountains, the walks and the clean air. I see more Colorado visits in her future.

Observing that Colorado Springs seemed to be fairly big, we looked up the population on the Internet, discovering that it is the nation's 41st largest city, with a population of 460,000. The metro area has about 650,000.

A while back someone asked me how many states I had been in. My guess was "about 20," but it turns out the actual number is 36. States where I only stopped for food, gas, rest or to change planes are indicated with an asterisk; I’ve spent at least one night in all the others.


New Mexico
New York

North Dakota
South Dakota*
West Virginia*

(Not to mention British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario in Canada and Baja California del Norte in Mexico.) (My parents and I traveled from California to Ohio and back when I was 18 months old. I don't remember anything about that trip, but it's very unlikely we hit any state not on my list.)


Hockey Tournament

When the Fresno Junior Monsters Midget A team season began, Coach Chuck Rivera said, “we will be going to just one tournament this season.” As time went on various parents would say, oh let’s go to this tournament Thanksgiving weekend, or here’s a great tournament we could go to. Chuck simply said, “We will be going to just one tournament this season."

This was probably a good thing, since the tournament chosen was the Presidents Day tournament sponsored by the Colorado Springs Amateur Hockey Association, requiring significant expenditure of money, time, and logistical planning. When the time arrived, parents and team headed for Colorado with low expectations. The team had lost the last four league games, scoring just four goals and giving up 13. Tournament competition tends to be a step above that of the home league, and we were wondering if we could even win one game.

This tournament was a major event, with 11 divisions, 95 teams, and over 220 games, spread over four different venues with six ice sheets, and games running from as early as 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. To make things more complicated, we were notified at the last minute (while waiting for our plane) that the schedule had been extensively revised due to a team pulling out. I don't know if they had entries in more than one division, but I imagine the tournament officials muttered a few non-hockey words as they struggled to revamp the schedule the day before the start of the event.

We were lucky enough to have reasonable times for most games, starting off on Friday at 1:30 p.m. The location was the US Air Force Academy arena, where the players  got to see their team names displayed on the jumbotron. Our first opponent was the Oklahoma City Oil Kings. The teams battled through the first period with no scoring, then the Oil Kings put in two goals early in the second. Finally half way through the final period Mikie Liddle scored to make it a one goal game. The team seemed to play with increased intensity after that, but were unable to score again, and the game ended with a 2-1 loss for the Monsters. (Game score sheet vs Oil Kings; shots on goal Oilers 26, Monsters 27.)

The second game was 9:15 that evening at the Colorado College practice facility, against the Jr. Eagles from Fort Collins Colorado. The Monsters opened the scoring in the first with a goal by Jacob Buck, but the Eagles tied it 24 seconds later, then took a lead 10 minutes into the second. Fresno's Zayne Jones tied it early in the 3rd, and Liddle scored the game winner with just under two minutes left. With the Eagles goalie out for an extra skater, Buck flipped the puck into the empty net from his own blue line with 20 seconds left to seal a 4-2 victory for the Monsters. (Game score sheet vs. Eagles; shots on goal Eagles 24, Monsters 22; on the score sheet the goal at 12:01 in the 3rd is erroneously credited to #13 who was not on the ice; it was scored by #19.)

The team had most of the next day to rest up and prepare for the 6:30 game at still a different rink, facing the Littleton Colorado Hawks. Fresno's "Doc" Dwyer was taken down on a breakaway, giving the Monsters a penalty shot, which he converted to take a 1-0 lead late in the first period. The Hawks then scored early in the second, and took the lead with another goal less than a minute later. Late in the period they increased their lead to two. At 2:34 into the 3rd, Jones brought the Monsters back within one, but the Hawks answered just over a minute later. Half way through the period Ryan Foster brought the Monsters back within a goal, but despite a good effort, they were unable to find the net again, and ended with a 4-3 loss. (Game score sheet vs Hawks; Shots on goal Hawks 42, Monsters 14.)

The Sunday afternoon game at 3:30 against the Denver Jr. Pioneers was a must win if the Monsters hoped to get to the finals. The location was the main rink at the World Arena, a very nice 8,000 seat facility and home of the Colorado College Tigers. A second building, known as the Ice House, serves as an Olympic training facility. While waiting, Teri and I watched a few minutes of sled hockey. Also known as sledge hockey, this development brings the sport to players with disabilities that would prevent normal skating.

The teams were closely matched, and played scoreless hockey for the first period and most of the second. Mikie Liddle came off the bench as Foster cleared the puck to the wall; Liddle scooped it up and scored from the faceoff dot with less than two seconds left in the period. The Monsters fiercely and successfully defended their one goal lead through the third period, to take the 1-0 win and a chance at the finals. It was also goalie Austin Hathcoat's first shutout of the season. (Game score sheet vs. Pioneers; shots on goal Pioneers 24, Monsters 19.)

The win left the Monsters tied with three other teams, with only two playoff spots available. The rather complex tiebreaker rules put the Pioneers in 3rd and the Monsters in 4th, meaning they would play in the consolation game for third place in the tournament - the Bronze Medal game.

An early game time meant a very early wake-up, with the puck drop scheduled for 7 a.m. With a shutout over their opponent the night before, the feeling was that if they could prevent any goals for the first period, the Pioneers would begin to wonder if they could ever score on Hathcoat. The boys from Fresno came out strong, and things got off to a good start when Zayne Jones scored his third goal of the tournament. The Monsters held their slim 1-0 lead for eleven minutes in the second period, then went ahead 2-0 on Brennan Achee's tally. Just 1:30 later Dwyer picked up his second of the weekend to take a 3-0 lead into the final 14-minute period. Despite being out shot 37-11, the Monsters held their lead and Hathcoat continued his strong play to notch his second shutout and give the team the Bronze Medal. (Game score sheet consolation game; shots on goal Pioneers 37, Monsters 11.)

The Monsters' Saturday opponent, the Hawks, played for first against the Jr. Knights from Orlando FL, winning gold in overtime.

--Dick Estel, February 2014


Photos (Click to enlarge; pictures open in new window)

All photos by Teri Liddle except video screen captures


Sierra Nevada from plane Geese walk on the frozen pond Long view of pond
Sierra Nevada from plane Geese walk on the frozen pond Long view of pond
Not sure where this is Pike's Peak from near our hotel

Banners dating back to the '50s hang in Colorado College's World Arena

Not sure where this is Pike's Peak from near our hotel

Banners dating back to the '50s hang in Colorado College's World Arena

Goalie sculpture outside the World Arena Another goalie sculpture This model Zamboni attracts young kids

Goalie sculpture outside the World Arena

Another goalie sculpture This mini Zamboni attracts the young kids
Sled hockey offers an extra challenge The Monsters salute their fans following the bronze medal victory Posing in front of the rink after the last game

Sled hockey offers an extra challenge

The Monsters salute their fans following the bronze medal victory Posing in front of the rink after the last game
He shoots... He scores... He celebrates!
He shoots... He scores... He celebrates!

(Video screen shots of Mikie's game-winning goal vs. Denver Pioneers, from game video by Goalmaster 28 Productions)

Team dinner: Mikie Liddle, Ryan Foster, Wolfie Boehringer, Max Turk Plaque honoring Charles Elliott Perkins, who designated Garden of the Gods land for public use Pike's Peak from Garden of the Gods

Team dinner: Mikie Liddle, Ryan Foster, Wolfie Boehringer, Max Turk

Plaque honoring Charles Elliott Perkins, who designated Garden of the Gods land for public use

Pike's Peak from Garden of the Gods

Trail and rock formations Climbing the wall Rocks, trees and dry grass
Trail and rock formations Climbing the wall Rocks, trees and dry grass
More views in the Garden of the Gods More views in the Garden of the Gods 2 More views in the Garden of the Gods 3
More views in the Garden of the Gods
And still more And still more 2 And still more 3
And still more
Trail and rare white sandstone Balanced Rock Teri by the rock
Trail and rare white sandstone Balanced Rock Teri by the rock
Dick takes a rest Snowy Pike's Peak dominates the mountain views Framed view of the peak
Dick takes a rest Snowy Pike's Peak dominates the mountain views Framed view of the peak
  Another view  
  Another view  
Related Links
Colorado Springs Amateur Hockey Association Schedule and scores Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods Info Fresno Jr. Hockey Club Colorado Springs
US Air Force Academy USAF Academy Hockey 2004 Colorado Trip
   Manitou Springs   
Rocks, trees and dry grass

Framed view of the peak

Travel Reports
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Parkfield Bluegrass 2012 Four Squaw Leap Hikes
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A 3-Event Weekend
Farmer's Market, Kings River Bluegrass, Antique Fair
2012 Las Vegas CAN AM Hockey Challenge
Fall Hikes
Finegold Trail; Bower Cave
Into Los Gatos Canyon
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Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival A Wedding in Duluth
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2014 Winter Hikes
Millerton South Bay Trail, Clovis Trail, Hite's Cove Trail
San Joaquin Gorge Campout
Colorado Springs Hockey Tournament Lake Havasu Bluegrass
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Stockton Creek Preserve, San Joaquin River Trail, San Joaquin Gorge, Millerton Lake, Sycamore Creek, Buena Vista Peak Again
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California Flat Campout
Snow Day with the  Upshaw's   
Rambler Hikes 2015 Part 1 Rambler Hikes 2015 Part 2
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(Lewis Creek Trail, Kaiser Pass, Kaiser Pass Again, Taft Point, Kings River Bluegrass, Shaver Logging Road, San Joaquin River Trail, Lewis S Eaton Trail, San Joaquin River Gorge, Thanksgiving at the Gorge)
Lake Tahoe & Virginia City Parkfield Bluegrass 2015
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Adventures of 2016 Part 1 Rambler Hikes 2016 Page 1
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Adventures of 2016 Part 4 A Pennsylvania Adventure
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Adventures of 2016 Part 7 Stargazer Rock Camp 2016
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Adventures of 2017 Part 4 Hiking and Hockey
Adventures of 2017 Part 5 Lake Almanor
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Travel Blog 2017 (an experiment) Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks
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Adventures of 2018 Part 6
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Adventures of 2019 Part 3 Parkfield Bluegrass 2019
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Updated December 17, 2018