- From October 11 to 14, for the third time in nine months, I found myself in Las Vegas, this time for another hockey
tournament. My grandson Mikie and his Bantam level team swept a
tournament here last February. Along with about ten of his
teammates, he has moved up to the
Midget level, the final category for youth hockey.
teams are either 18 and under kids or 16 and under. The Fresno
Junior Monsters are 16-U, but they play against some 18-U teams
in tournaments and exhibition games.
This event was the CAN
I had a
meeting Thursday morning at
and wanted to have a good breakfast, so I got up about 7, an hour or
more earlier than my usual wake up time.With the first game Friday at 10, Mikie would miss school
that day, but we didn't want him to leave early on Thursday, so I
made plans to pick him up when he got home at .
happened too often, getting to Vegas was an adventure on its own.
Scattered thunderstorms were forecast for Las Vegas and the nearby
mountain and desert areas. We were not worried about snow (which
plagued us two years ago), since none was expected below 7,000 feet.
However, a common component of thunderstorms is hail, and we had a
little of that.
on the road a little after 3 p.m. Traffic was not bad, and we even
made it through Bakersfield at 5:00 with only a few minutes of slow
driving on Highway 99 heading into town.
east on state 58 was even smoother, and we stopped for dinner at a Denny's
in Tehachapi, getting back on the road just before dark. We zipped
along nicely through Mojave, Kramer Junction, and
Barstow, where we headed north on I-15. We soon began to see lightning far
in the distance, and we had a little rain off and on.
we passed Baker and went over the high point at Halloran Summit at
4,000 feet, we we're treated to a spectacular lightning display,
with many cloud-to-cloud sparks, including at one point two
horizontal sparks, one above the other.
Other times the flashes lit up the silhouette of mountains in front
of the light.
approached Valley Wells, the last rest stop in California, Mikie
finally fell asleep, and I was about to do the same. We pulled into
the rest stop where I planned to snooze a few minutes. A gentle,
soothing rain began to fall on the roof of the car, followed quickly
by the sound of machine gun fire. Well, not really, but was
and woke up Mikie. I looked out the window and saw these white lumps
beside the car, and realized it was hail. I needed to go into the
restroom, but waited till the hail turned back to gentle rain. By
this time the top of the car and the windshield were partly covered,
but it was slushy and soon melted off.
didn't have any further severe weather till we got into Las Vegas. We took US 95 at the north end of town, and for much of the next
four miles, pounding rain and water in the road kept speeds down to
40 or 50 MPH.
the storm my GPS
kept losing the satellite connection, but it reconnected in seconds
most of the time. We made it to the hotel a little after 11, and got
to bed by , with a 6:30
wake up call in store.
by Marriott had not only given us a good group rate, they set up
a buffet breakfast for players and family. The kids had to arrive by
7:00, with parents and siblings eating at
first opponent was the New
Mexico Storm, a team said to be AA level (the Monsters are
single A).The monsters
opened the scoring near the end of the first period, then scored
twice more in the second. Maybe the boys thought they could coast to
an easy win, but for whatever reason they took their foot off the
gas pedal, a bad idea against any team. The Storm scored just over a
minute into the third period, then again half way through, and
finally with less than 90 seconds left in the game, ending the
contest in a tie, and giving both teams a point in the standings.
and parents then headed for the buffet, where the hotel graciously
gave us a banquet room and allowed us to pay for the entire group
with a single credit card, with a
flatcharge of $8 per
person, tax and tip included. The parents then reimbursed the person
who provided the card.
another game in about three hours, the coach admonished the kids to
avoid pizza and other heavy foods, but I noticed many players
slipping a slice or two on to their plates. Would this come back to
haunt them in the later game?
time to go back to the hotel for about two hours rest, then it was
back to the Fiesta for game two against the Utah
Junior Grizzlies. This team was reported to be the weakest of
the five in the Midget level, but the earlier tie had taught the
Monsters not to take any team for granted. After a scoreless first
period, the Grizzlies drew first blood, but Fresno
came back five minutes later with two goals 35 seconds apart, both
scored by team captain Jacob Haynes. Fresno
made it 3-1 ten seconds into the third period, after which the teams
traded scoring with two more goals each. Haynes put in the final
tally for the hat trick, and the Monsters triumphed 5-3.No pizza hangover for our guys!
was on their own for eating and other activities for the evening,
with the boys given a
curfewby Coach Bobby Barlow.
Mikie and several teammates walked to a nearby McDonald's, then
played video games at Best Buy until time to head back to the hotel
for the night. So much for Vegas night life when you're 15.
the big lunch buffet, I had no further interest in eating for the night,
so I sat in the lobby with several of the parents and had a beer.
Mikie and I got upstairs and into bed by 10 with a wakeup call waiting us at
in the morning.
game was at the Las Vegas
Center, a little farther away but still an easy trip with very little
traffic that early in the morning. Our opponent, the Arizona
Hockey Union Purple from Peoria
lost their first game 5-1 and won their second one by the same score
so we did not know what to expect.
got the first goal but Arizona
quickly came back with two. We tied it early in the second but Arizona
answered with two more goals, winning the game 4-2.
left the Monsters with three points in the standings and a must-win
game in the afternoon against the Las
Vegas Junior Wranglers, one of the top ranked teams in the
tournament. The Wranglers' leading scorer, Coby Downs, put in the
first goal of the game just seconds before the first period horn
tied it just over a minute into the second but
responded two minutes later. The remaining nine minutes of the
second and the first six of the third saw intense physical play but
no more goals.
Connor Smythe tied it for Fresno, and Justin Russo put in what would
prove to be the winning goal.
would still need help from other teams to get into the gold medal
game, and as usual, other teams had their own agenda. In the end,
the Monsters tied for second. The tie-breaker was fewest goals
against, and with one more than the New Mexico Storm, Fresno finished
Wranglers finished fourth, setting up a re-match in the bronze medal
game Sunday morning.
Saturday lunch it was "get your own," but bring it back to
the hotel so the boys could hang out together. We found a Quiznos
and enjoyed the sandwich, drink and chips. Saturday night Mikie
again went with his crew to McDonald's and Best Buy. I did not want
a big dinner, so I decided on a chocolate chip cookie sundae from
the hotel diner, very delicious and certainly lower in calories than
a hamburger from the Heart
Attack Grill, which several families had visited Friday night.
game was at
for the kids and 9:00
for parents and siblings.
everything packed up, then checked out and left for the rink about , giving the team plenty of time for pre-game activities. This
usually includes a jog around the outside of the building, and most
days a low-key game of ball
hockey out in the parking lot.
it usually means reading and chatting with other parents, but since
this game and Friday's were at a casino, I had to see what I could
do to contribute to the Nevada
economy. On Friday I put in a $5 bill, which soon disappeared. I
don't operate on the assumption that if I put in more I will surely
win, so that ended my gambling for the day. On Sunday I found a
likely looking penny machine and inserted a $20. Playing mostly 25
cents at a time, I didn't even win a few pennies the first few
spins. Down to a little over $17 I considered changing machines, but
went for another spin. The machine began dinging, and just kept it
up for a long time, paying a $26 jackpot. With enough profit to pay
for dinner on the way home, I cashed out and went out to the car to
work on this report.
After the close and physical game between Fresno and Las Vegas
Saturday, we expected the same for the Sunday game, and indeed it
was. There were 19 penalties between the two teams, with Vegas
taking one more, while Fresno's Andrew Pellegrino accounted for four,
which results in ejection from the game, and suspension from the
next game. Andrew also provided the first goal of the game, but Las
Vegas star player Coby Downs answered just over a minute later.
Jacob Haynes and Landon Sciacca also scored in the first to give the
Monsters a two-goal lead, but Downs closed to within one with a goal
late in the period.
is a big, highly skilled kid, but not very physical, and Fresno
parents went wild when he was knocked down by a check from Brennan
Achee, the smallest player on the Monsters team.
second and third periods, each team put up one more goal per period.
The Wranglers' Tyler Anderson, assisted by Downs, raised Vegas fans'
hopes by tying the score less than two minutes into the second, but
Jacob Haynes put Fresno ahead again late in the period. Fresno added
one more goal from Brennan Achee early in the third, and the boys in
green and white held that two-goal lead through most of the rest of
the game. Las Vegas' Anderson scored once more at 10:45, but the
Monsters stayed strong and held off the Wranglers intense attack in
the final minute and a half to take the bronze medal game
the usual pile-on celebration, the teams lined up for the
traditional handshake, then Fresno's triumphant team stood on the
ice as each player was presented
a medal. A few quick team
photos concluded the hockey weekend, and after players changed,
we said our goodbyes to parents, teammates and siblings, and went
our separate ways for the long trip home.
storm had moved on by Saturday morning, and there were no weather
issues going home. There were a lot of sections where concrete
barriers have been set up seemingly inches from the travel lane due
to construction, but since it was Sunday, no workers were active.
Most of this was on Highway 99, and traffic slowed down to 70 MPH in
and I stopped for lunch at Los
Domingos in Barstow, a Mexican restaurant I've visited several
times. Anxious to get home, Mikie was hoping for a quick fast food
stop, but by way of compromise I asked the waiter to bring a box and
the bill immediately, so that when Mikie finished, I could pack up
the rest of my food and we could get out quickly.
only one more stop, at Murray Farms at the bottom of Tehachapi Grade
east of Bakersfield, probably a first for me, since normally I never
pass up a rest stop. We got on the road about 1:30, and arrived at
Mikie's house around 9, to be greeted by Tim and Teri and two
enthusiastic dogs. I visited for a few minutes, but since I still
had a dozen miles to go back to my condo in Clovis, I was on my way
quickly. When we rolled into his driveway I jokingly said to Mikie,
"Be sure to forget something like you usually do." Ever
obedient, he left his tool kit and his medal for me to discover when
I unloaded the car at home.
Bobby Barlow posted this post-tournament comment on the team's Shutterfly
Sitting in the passenger seat staring out the window somewhere between Baker and Barstow reflecting back on the weekend. I remember driving over the mountains and descending into Las Vegas into an incredible thunder and lightning storm. So what began with the Storm and a 3-3
tie ended with a thundering check from Brotank [Brennan Achee] that put the Star
[Downs] of the Las Vegas Wranglers out and ended the Wranglers' hope of a comeback.
3-1-1 record - great job boys. Final note: The two teams that made the finals were both the two AA teams in the tournament with Arizona beating New Mexico 2-1.
I still think YOU were the best team there. See you Tuesday.
ended our journey, a total of 909 miles.
web address shows only the final standings, but there are links on the left to individual games and
score sheets. If you get to a page that has all the divisions, look
for the Sarajevo/Midget division. All divisions were named for
Winter Olympic cities.
--Dick Estel, October 2012
(Click to enlarge; pictures open in new window)
(Photos marked "AP" taken by Amy Perez)
Ice arena at Fiesta Hotel
Hockey Moms (they can kick your Soccer
Mom's ass any day!)
Waiting to go on
the ice for the first game
Attacking the net against New Mexico
Goalie Austin Hathcoat
stops a Utah Grizzlies scoring attempt (AP)
Las Vegas Ice Center
Mikie races to the puck vs. Arizona
Celebrating the Saturday win against
Monsters salute their fans after the win
Haynes sweeps the puck away from an opponent's stick (AP)
Jacob Buck wins
the puck battle in the corner (AP)
about to slip past a defender (AP)
Monsters celebrate a second win over
Las Vegas (AP)
The final score of the Bronze Medal
Mikie receives his medal
Medals from the official; hugs from the
The Fresno Junior Monsters Midget A
The bronze medal
Mikie is greeted by a teammate's brother,
Pee Wee player Josh Russo
Las Vegas sunset, Friday night
Nice mountains, too many signs
Warming up with a game of ball hockey
Brennan Achee, Andrew Pellegrino, Mike Perez, Mikie Liddle being
kids in the hotel lobby (AP)