Our game: Summit PeeWee A hockey enters league tourney ranked No. 1 | SummitDaily.com

Our game: Summit PeeWee A hockey enters league tourney ranked No. 1

Before talking hockey or his team's No. 1 ranking or that tough Las Vegas tourney, Kaeden Edstrom apologized for his scratchy voice.

"Sorry for my voice," the starting goalie for the Summit Youth Hockey PeeWee A team told me after practice, when I met with him and his captains at Stephen C. West Ice Arena in Breckenridge. "It's from yelling at the boys."

Edstrom wasn't lying about his voice — the 13-year-old Summit Middle School student sounded like he'd been fighting a sore throat, or maybe rabid fans at a rock concert — and he definitely wasn't lying about yelling at the boys. As goalie, it's his job to see the entire rink and let his team know where to be, when to be there and how it makes life in the net easier.

"My job is all about stopping the puck and communicating to the boys what I see," Edstrom said. "I'm the only player who can see the entire game and the entire rink."

Edstrom's PeeWee A crew would fall apart if he didn't sacrifice his voice for the cause, and after a long, tough season in the six-team Continental Divide Youth Hockey League, the sacrifice is showing. Summit sits at No. 1 in the league with a 15-4-1 record, just one win ahead of perpetual powerhouse Steamboat Springs (14-3-3) and a whopping six games ahead of Aspen (9-10-1), Summit's first foe at the CDYHL league playoffs today in Aspen at 7:45 p.m.

"Three years ago we went in as the fourth seed against No. 1 Aspen, and now the roles are reversed," said head coach Wren Arbuthnot, who's coaching the PeeWee A crew for a third straight season. "It's kind of cool."

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If Edstrom has anything to say about it — scratchy voice or no — Summit will continue to dominate Aspen after today's first round. The local boys went undefeated in four games against Aspen this season, and no one on the team wants to begin the double-elimination tournament with a shaky loss to a shaky team.

"I think it's going to be a close game, but I hope that we show up and play our game, and I think that we will," said 12-year-old Eli Ash, a right winger and co-captain with longtime teammate Blaze Ebbinghaus. "Captains have to set the tone for the team, to show our team how to play. We can help the team pick up our intensity."

When Ash says "our game," that's exactly what he means: intense, smart, physical play for a full 42 minutes. And when Summit enters the league playoffs as not only the No. 1 seed, but also defending lower division state champions, they won't be able to take a single second off. Such are the joys of having a target on your back.

"They have to steel their nerves and understand that every championship game is like any other game," Arbuthnot said. "It's a full game, a complete game, and you can't have an off shift because that's when you get burned. It has to be 110 percent every shift."

What happens in Vegas…

The Summit PeeWee A boys learned that lesson the hard way this past weekend (Feb. 17-19), when the team traveled to Las Vegas for the third and final tournament of the season. Arbuthnot and Co. were undefeated in tournament play this season and came to Las Vegas feeling nearly invincible.

"We always have to hope we'll do well," said Ebbinghaus, a veteran defenseman who's been playing with Ash and Edstrom for five seasons. "It's about trying to keep a good mind about (things) if you lose, thinking, 'What can I do better? How can I want it more?'"

Summit rolled through tournament pool play undefeated and entered the Feb. 19 championship round as cool, confident and dedicated as the team has been all season. Then, something changed. The players can't quite agree on exactly what happened, but they can agree on one thing: They let things go to their heads.

"I think we got some jitters and just felt apart," Edstrom said. "We thought about what we were doing too much, instead of just letting our bodies do what we know how to do."

The boys' head coach, on the other hand, knew exactly what happened and when.

"All it took was taking five minutes off," Arbuthnot explained. "There was a stretch in the second period when they ended up burning us for two goals. We lost 2-1 and that was the difference. If you take an off shift, you can lose."

…Doesn't stay there

In some ways, Arbuthnot is happy his team lost the Las Vegas championship game. It showed them exactly what happens when they take off even a minute or two, but it also showed them exactly what happens when they play "our game."

"This was a great tune-up for playoffs," Arbuthnot said of the tourney. "The boys really rose to the occasion and played as one unit for the tournament. We only gave up four goals — it just so happens that two of them were in the championship game."

League playoffs set the tone for the rest of the postseason. Last year, the PeeWee A team lost two games during playoffs, which bumped them to the lower division for the annual state tournament — where the team won a state title. This year, the same squad hopes to dominate leagues for a shot at the upper division title.

And it all begins with today's game against an Aspen team known for playing rough — and paying the price for it. Over the season, Summit has accrued 96 penalty minutes to Aspen's 360 minutes, and the players have bought into their head coach's advice: Stay out of the box.

"It's nice that we don't have to kill power plays," Ebbinghaus said. "We can spend more time getting goals and protecting our goalie. Last year we weren't as disciplined."

After Aspen in the tournament opener, Summit might face its biggest challenge in Steamboat, another team known for physical, rough-and-tumble play. Summit lost to them twice early in the season, and then rebounded to beat them twice in the home stretch. The local boys are peaking at the right time.

"I would love to see them standing on the blue line at Pepsi Center getting a banner," Arbuthnot said. "I'd love to see that. But the only way it's going to happen is if we pay attention to detail and execute, and the cool thing about this team is they don't know how to quit."

Disclaimer: Head coach Wren Arbuthnot writes regular hockey recaps for the Summit Daily.

The home stretch

After a stellar 15-4-1 season, the Summit Youth Hockey PeeWee A team enters the postseason sitting pretty. Here’s a look at the schedule for Continental Divide Youth Hockey League playoffs in Aspen (Lewis Ice Arena) from Feb. 24-26 and the Colorado Amateur Hockey Association State Championships in Boulder (Carlston Ice Arena) from March 3-5 and March 11-12.

CDYHL playoffs, Feb. 24-26

Feb. 24 — Summit vs. Aspen, 7:45 p.m.

Feb. 25 — Summit vs. TBD, morning

Feb. 25 — Summit vs. TBD, afternoon (if needed)

Feb. 26 — Summit vs. TBD, morning (if needed)

Feb. 26 — Championship game, 1:45 p.m.

CAHA State Championships, March 3-12

March 3-4 — Round-robin pool play, times TBD

March 4 — Single-elimination quarterfinals, times TBD

March 5 — Single-elimination semifinals, times TBD

March 11-12 — Championship games, times TBD (Pepsi Center in Denver)

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