February 17, 2014 Updated: February 17, 2014 at 6:35 pm
The Junior Tigers fought their way to the finals of the Colorado Springs Amateur Hockey Association Presidents Day Tournament only to fall 7-4 in the waning minutes of the championship game.
Monday morning the hometown Tigers found themselves matched up with the only team that beat them in Bantam B pool play, the Pueblo Panthers, but this time a tournament title was on the line. The two teams took to the home ice of the CC Tigers at the World Arena to determine which team would be the last one standing in their division.
The game couldn't have started any worse for the Tigers as they gave up the first goal only 54 seconds after the puck dropped. By the time six minutes had ticked away in regulation the Panthers added two more goals to build a 3-0 lead.
The Tigers didn't let themselves get discouraged and toward the end of the period found themselves with a power-play opportunity. They would convert to score their first goal by Micah McInnis, which helped them start shaking the early morning cobwebs.
"We have group of kids that don't seem to wake up before nine," coach Kenny Rausch said with a laugh. "It's normal for 13- and 14-year-old boys and girls. Sometimes they just can't get their energy systems going but (after their first goal) they started feeling their energy systems kick in and they started feeling their legs a little bit more."
At the start of the second period the Panthers struck early again, building a 4-1 lead. But that's when the Tigers came alive and started to come back. A back-handed goal cut the Panther lead to two and the Tigers struck again off the ensuing faceoff, making it a 4-3 game.
Just under four minutes into the third period a five-minute major for tripping gave the Tigers a prime opportunity to even the score. They were able to convert for their second power-play goal, to tie the game at four goals apiece.
"We just play the game the right way; we try to make plays and not throw the puck away," Rausch said. "We know if you give up three goals early you have to try and score five and they did a great job at coming back."
But the Panthers also showed an ability to overcome adversity as they scored what would be the game-winning goal with five minutes remaining. Two empty-net goals would give them a 7-4 victory and a tournament championship.
Despite the loss, Rausch knows that his team has plenty of hockey to play and he is proud of their effort over the holiday weekend.
The Junior Tigers Peewee B team fell short in a quest for a championship 2-1 to the Texas Aces at Sertich Ice Center.