The Colorado Hockey Association held multiple tournaments over the weekend as the youth hockey season winded down.
Playing in the Colorado Cup competition were the Arapahoe Warriors Yellow in the 10-and-under division. The Warriors, after placing second in three consecutive tournament championships, turned things around on March 5, beating Arvada 5-1 to take over the trophy.
After the game, leading scorer Dennis Lisunov, who scored 109 points and 98 goals over 40 games, said he was glad to finally take home the first-place title.
Lisunov said he is proud of how hard the Warriors worked to finish strong in the final tournament of the season.
Arvada, seeded second in the tournament, kept pace with the high-scoring Warriors through the second period when the game remained tied 1-1.
“I think both teams were pretty evenly matched,” Lisunov said. “I wanted to get to 100 goals in this game but it was good.”
The Warriors broke things open late in the second when Austin Castelli sneaked a quick pass past the goalie to give the team a 2-1 lead.
After that, it was all Warriors as the team went on to win 5-1.
Coach Chris Castelli called the victory a "complete win by our entire team," While noting there was some nervousness in those first two periods.
"I think the players were afraid to make a mistake," Castelli said. "Our coaching staff was continuously reminding them to have fund and clear their mind of any doubt. It was not until the third goal that we finally were able to play our game and were able to close the door by controlling the puck in teh offensive zone. We just looked more relaxed by that third period."
The team’s second top scorer, Lewis Chan, said he was excited to finish strong. Chan finished the season with 34 goals, 15 assists and 49 points overall.
“It is an amazing way to finish,” Chan said. “We played a great game and our defense was amazing.”
As the season progressed, Chan worked on defense as much as offense, earning a defensive player of the game award at one point.
Lisunov and Chan were quick to not only credit the hard work and improvement of the team’s defense, but also point to the excellent play of goalie Emma Preston.
Early in the season, 9-year-old Preston said her goal was to lead a championship team. She got her wish in her first season, as the Warriors got the first-place title in the fourth championship game of the season.
Preston finished the season with an 80% save percentage. Joining Preston on a strong defensive performance were leaders Ryan Billman, Connor McDonald and Connor Morrison.
“This win feels very good,” Preston said. “As a team we really worked hard for this. After losing three (title) games in a row, this one feels good. We got over early struggles and fought hard to win this game.”
With Preston guarding the net and Lisunov leading the offense, the Warriors outscored opponents 31-5 in the tournament's five-game stretch.
Catelli told his team after the victory that it felt like a weight was lifted, given the team’s struggles in title games.
"Prior to our Colorado Cup victory, we played in three consecutive tournament championship games and were on the verge of a huge wins against the state's best 10U Rec teams, but we came up short each time," Castelli said. "I know those games were painful to lose, however, it prepared us for this championship game. We were determined to end the season on a high note. Fourth time’s the charm, we had the confidence in our last game of the year to bring home the championship banner and that really meant the world to us. It's a testament to the team’s hard work and
determination we’ve had all season long. It was a true Cinderella story, from the where we started the season to now, the team has developed so much, and each player had a role in our success."
Besides the Warriors 10U team, Arapahoe’s youth hockey league also had several other champions over the weekend.
The Arapahoe 14U Navy team defeated Littleton for the title.
The Arapahoe 10UB Maize team won the 2023 CAHA State Championship.
The Arapahoe 12U Aa team won the CCYHL Championship, defeating Hyland Hills.