This is one big faceoff.
To begin the 2016-17 Durango Area Youth Hockey Association varsity season, the Durango Devils will welcome the Cibola Cougars from New Mexico at 3:15 p.m. Saturday at the Chapman Hill Ice Rink.
A year ago, Cibola claimed the Composite New Mexico State championship with a 2-0 win against Durango. The rematch is on and will serve as an early indicator of which team will be favored this season.
The Devils battled opponents and a lack of depth last season. A short bench led to players seeing too many minutes on the ice. This year, the Demons are bolstered with a bit larger roster.
The team the past two years was mostly made up of underclassmen who reached the championship each of their first two years. The top defensive line in the league is back with Eno Ulshafer leading a defense that allowed the second-fewest goals a year ago. Sam Kidd and Nick Piccaro provide experience, while freshman Jax Bayer will be counted on heavily defensively. Senior goalie Robby Grogan is back for the Devils, giving the team a lot of confidence between the pipes.
On the attacking side of the blue line, senior Jake Beekman along with juniors Joe Clawton, Clay Kinder, Wyatt Killinen and Landen Sill lead the scoring threat. Sophomore Gus Kidd is another proven player along with freshmen Everett Howland and Timmy Miller ready to make an immediate impact.
Ready to take the next step, the Devils will once again be led by varsity coaches Drew Kensinger and John Piccaro. They would like to invite the entire Durango community to the ice rink Saturday for the big game.
Chapman Hill Ice Rink also will host a “Try Hockey for Free Day” at 9:20 a.m. Saturday. Children ages 4-9 are encouraged to attend to learn basic skills in a fun and safe environment.
“We look forward to welcoming families to Chapman Hill Ice Arena to try our great sport of ice hockey” said Rachel Killinen of DAYHA.
“Our goal is for these families to enjoy watching their kids learn new skills with big smiles on their faces.”
Participants are asked only to bring a helmet, even if it’s a bicycle helmet, and a pair of gloves, though they don’t need to be hockey gloves.
USA Hockey’s Try Hockey program, with the support of the National Hockey League and NHL member clubs among others, is designed to provide youth hockey associations with a national platform to introduce new kids to the sport.
Total Hockey and Liberty Mutual Insurance are official sponsors of Try Hockey For Free Days. USA Hockey has close to 500 locations offering this opportunity to kids nationwide.