Throughout the entire state of New Mexico, there are four sheets of ice that are available year round. Joey Carroll brought his New Mexico Warriors teams to the 37th annual CSAHA Presidents' Day Tournament where games were to be played across seven sheets of ice in five arenas.
Carroll and his players aren't in New Mexico anymore. Instead they find themselves in a hot spot for youth hockey at a time when teams from around the country flock to the foot of Pikes Peak in search of the best competition. But according to Carroll, that doesn't scare the Warriors.
The limitations of ice and the interest in hockey that comes in the New Mexico region limits the number of teams in the state. In fact, the only the way the Warriors get to see competition at all is to travel outside of the state.
"When we play we have to travel to another state, there's no other team in the state that we can play," Carroll said. "All of our tournaments are geared toward closer locations like Arizona, Texas or Colorado. What we found is the hardest competition is in Colorado."
Just because Colorado has the best competition doesn't mean that the Warriors make the trip without any hopes of winning. The Peewee A team that Carroll brought ran through pool play, outscoring its opponents 18-6.
In a tournament filled with teams from Colorado, Texas and California it is the surprising Warriors who have made the most of their opportunity this weekend. And if they have shown their opponents anything it's that a team doesn't have to come from a hockey hotbed to have success against top-level teams.
"It's fortunate that our kids react well and just essentially have a chip on their shoulder," he said. "Colorado has constant competition and they get to play games year round. We play five tournaments a year, only 20 to 30 games a season. So when they play they treat it as the only game they get to play all year."
The results are a testament to the time and effort that Carroll has put in with these teams as he aims to mold them into a Double-A hockey team. He knows they are right on the cusp and his players proved it by getting all the way to the semifinals before falling short against the Aspen Leafs.
"The reason that I started (coaching) with such a young age is there's no reason that we can't have a Double-A team in New Mexico," Carroll said. "If you train them young enough and they stick together and grow together we can have that projection."
Their strong showing this weekend is exactly what the club needs as it continues to make that push to compete at a higher level.
And since it is the only club within the state, it will just have to settle for being one of the better clubs within a three-state region.
Finals will be played Monday with two local Junior Tigers teams playing at 9 a.m. at World Arena main rink (Bantam B) and Sertich Ice Center (Peewee B).