Good Sports: Fresno championship hockey

FRESNO, Calif.

It's 10 p.m. on a weeknight in Fresno, and 14 of the Central Valley's best youth hockey players have to wait for the public's open skate to finish before they can get on the ice.

But the midget division Junior Monsters haven't let many obstacles, if any, get in their way -- not even distance. Some players on the team live in the Bay Area.

"Coming from the outside I really got the sense that this team really wants to win, and really is good at what they're doing -- winning," said Oakland resident John Sexton.

No truer words have been spoken, especially after the Junior Monsters became the first Fresno youth hockey club team ever to win the prestigious Silver Sticks Pacific Regional Tournament in San Jose last month.

"When you hear that Fresno's done something big it's kind of -- oh Fresno. They just won something. And they're going to Canada for it. It's got to be big, right? That's kind of what we're thinking. We're thinking like, hey, we kind of just did something bigger than we just thought," said Bullard High junior Spencer Paul.

They play in the 18 and under age division, even though 10 of the players are either 15 or 16. "I've got a very young team. 15-16 year olds carrying the majority of this team. So I'm very proud of them," said Fresno Junior Monsters head coach Bobby Barlow.

They are much smaller than most of the teams they play against, but what they lack in size, they more than make up for in heart and breakaway speed.

"I've got a very fast team. I've got a very talented team. These kids have been playing together for a while. I didn't expect this kind of outcome. I was very excited. They were very excited."

With the San Jose win, the Junior Monsters earned a trip to Canada, the birthplace of hockey, for the Silver Sticks International Tournament next month.

"We can't play California hockey, so to speak. We've got to be on our toes. We've got to be moving. We've got to keep our heads up. We've got to go up there confident."

"Oh man this team can win this tournament. When I came to play with this team the first thing I noticed is that we've got the speed to do it. They pass extremely well. This is a very good hockey team."

And they head to Canada with the perfect mind frame.

"Yeah it's going to be better than to be just going to Pismo for the weekend. We're going to Canada."

Let's just hope the results against some of the best teams in the world are just as sweet.

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