By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
Need some hockey with no talk of labor disputes, lockouts or walk outs? Then look no further then the Havre Ice Dome for your fix of pucks, passes and power plays as the 2005 Montana Amateur Hockey Association PeeWee B State Championship Tournament will start on Friday morning and run through Sunday afternoon.
The PeeWee hockey division features athletes from ages 11-12 skating in a full-contact situation for the first time. While they may be just kids, the action should be intense and action-packed.
This weekend's state tournament will feature six of the 11 teams in the M.A.H.A.'s Treasure State League, including the fifth-seeded Havre Ice Hawks. A scheduling conflict didn't allow all of the teams to be here.
"Some of the teams couldn't make it," said Ice Hawks head coach Mark Majeres. "The teams from Casper, Gillette and some others are playing in the Wyoming state tournament."
Still, the teams that will be in Havre are solid squads that will provide plenty of competition in each game.
"I think just about any team in the tournament is capable of winning," Majeres said. "There should be some pretty close games."
If he had to pick an overall favorite, Majeres leaned a little toward the Helena Bighorns, who come in as the tourney's No. 1 seed.
"Helena is very good," Majeres said. "They only lost one league game this season. They're pretty tough, they can score a lot of goals and they have a really good goaltender."
So if the Bighorns are the team to beat, where does that leave his team?
"I think we have as good a chance as anybody," Majeres said. "We've had a pretty good year so far. We don't score a ton of goals, but we don't give up many either."
Indeed, the Ice Hawks finished a respectable 8-7-1 in league play. They will open up against Gallatin Valley Ice Garden on Friday morning at 11.
Havre and Gallatin Valley skated to a 1-1 tie at a tournament earlier in the season. The early deadlock should be a sign of things to come.
"It will probably be a pretty close game," Majeres said. "They have a good team and will have to play well to win."
The Ice Hawks will pull double duty on Friday when they take on the Butte Blues at 7 p.m.
Havre defeated Butte in three of the four meetings between the two teams. However, Butte is also the only team to knock off Helena this season.
"Butte is pretty fair," he said. "We've had some success against them, but they are also the only team to be beat Helena, which shows they are capable of beating any team."
The Ice Hawks will wrap up pool play on Saturday at 11 a.m. against Billings. Havre hasn't played Billings this season, but Majeres does know that they are solid.
"They only lost a couple games this season," he said. "So they should be pretty good."
To have a chance at a state championship, Havre must finish in the top two in its pool. It's a prospect that Majeres believes can happen if his team can continue to play the solid defense it has played all season and sprinkle in some timely scoring.
"We rely a lot on our defense," Majeres said. "Our goaltending has been very good and our defensemen have done an excellent job this season."
Majeres will look to goaltender Alex Sinclair and defensemen Nick Sunchild, Ali Sinclair, Justin Jensen and Brayden Nelson to continue their solid play.
Offensively, Majeres' son and captain, Jesse, is among the team's leading scorers along with assistant captain Dillon McLain. Other players capable of contributing are Garrett Lambrecht, Gareth Bernard, Crysta Robinson, Blaine Grizak, Andrew Bradshaw, Chase Rolf and Jonathon Austin.
The Ice Hawks' offense is truly a team effort with an assist on every goal.
"We're not the type of team to score on a lot of breakaways," Majeres said. "We need all of our players to help to do the scoring. It really is a team effort."
As far as state tournament aspirations, Majeres just wants his team to finish in the top two of its pool and get to Saturday's pool cross-over play, before worrying about a state championship.
"I would think we have a good chance to be playing at the end," Majeres said. "We're playing at home, which helps. We just need to play hard and everything will take care of itself."
The tournament will wrap up on Sunday at 10 a.m. with the championship game.
7 a.m. - Billings vs. Butte
9 a.m. - Gallatin Valley vs. Havre
11 a.m. - Helena vs. Missoula
3 p.m. - Billings vs. Gallatin Valley
5 p.m. - Bozeman vs. Missoula
7 p.m. - Havre vs. Butte
7 a.m. - Helena vs. Bozeman
9 a.m. - Butte vs. Gallatin Valley
11 a.m. - Havre vs. Billings
3 p.m. - Cross over third-place games
5 p.m. - Cross over 1st Red vs. 2nd Blue
7 p.m. - Cross over 1st Blue vs. 2nd Red
8 a.m. - Consolation game
10 a.m. - Championship game