The Colorado Avalanche Pee-Wee Hockey Team had high expectations to meet entering the 55th annual Quebec International Pee-Wee Tournament after last year's squad won the organization's first championship.
Those expectations were met as they won the Avalanche its second consecutive title at one of the most prestigious youth hockey tournaments in the world.
This year's squad was honored during the Avalanche's game Friday against Phoenix with each team member wearing the medals they won in Quebec. The Jr. Avalanche defeated the Austrian Selects 4-1 last Sunday in the International-B Division championship game.
Colorado fell down early in the title game against the Austrians and trailed 1-0 after the first period, but the club responded with three goals in the second period to turn the contest in its favor. Drew Renner and Jack Kresel scored in a 14-second span early in the period, and Sander Willard found the back of the net at 11:32 to give the Jr. Avs a 3-1 advantage after two periods.
Oliver Larraz sealed the game in the third period with his sixth goal in Quebec. He finished with the second most goals in the International-B Division.
Goalie Adam Bublitz was strong in net in the championship game and finished with 18 saves. Bublitz finished the tournament with a 4-0 record and led the division with a 1.10 goals-against average (minimum of 100 minutes).
Minutes before taking the ice for the title game, the Jr. Avalanche received one last bit of motivation to bring another championship back to Colorado. It was a voicemail message from the organization's head coach/vice president of hockey operations, Patrick Roy, who said the NHL club had heard of their success in Quebec and that they were proud of them and wished them luck.
"It was so awesome to hear his words of encouragement, and it really made me feel proud to be a part of this tournament and the Jr. Avalanche," Willard wrote to ColoradoAvalanche.com afterward.
Renner wrote of the experience of hearing Roy's pregame words: "We were even more proud now to put that Avalanche jersey on one final time as a member of the Colorado Avalanche and try to bring back the trophy for the entire organization."
While the 2013 championship team went undefeated in Quebec, the 2014 version had to battle a little adversity after losing its opening game to Drummondville 6-2. If Colorado wanted to win back-to-back titles, it would have to win out.
Facing elimination from the tournament, the Avs defeated the Quebec-Ouest Gladiateurs 6-2 two days later to make it to the final eight of the tournament.
Colorado was gaining confidence as the tournament went on, and that was evident in the quarterfinals and semifinals as the Jr. Avalanche shutout the Montmorency Bataillon 7-0 and the Atlanta Fire 4-0 to reach the championship game.
The University of Denver Jr. Pioneers are this year's Avalanche Pee-Wee Hockey Team after they earned the distinction from winning the organization's Quebec Qualifier tournament in November. This is the 12th year in which the Avalanche has given a local club an all-expenses paid trip to compete in the Quebec tournament and an experience of a lifetime.
"I’m really glad I was able to be a part of this experience," Willard wrote. "I will never forget this for the rest of my life."