Winter Hockey


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Nothing like celebrating together through these times of seperations. At the home game against Chaparral on Feb. 5, the team celebrates after scoring a goal. “Seeing and talking to my teammates every day and just playing games is super fun,” said Aidan Tucker (12).

It’s hockey season, and the CT players are gearing up to get back on the ice. Though Covid-19 put restrictions on their season, they are nothing but excited to return back to the sport they love.
Cherokee Trail does not have its hockey team, so players join a combined team with athletes from other schools in the Cherry Creek district, including CT, Cherry Creek, and Grandview. “They build a good camaraderie because they are there [practice]every day,” said Jeff Mielnicki, the head coach for the team, “It isn’t any different than if they went to the same school.”
Having a joint team isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Though they all play under the Cherry Creek school’s name, each athlete still represents their school and brings pride back to their home turf. “Everyone’s a family on the team, so it doesn’t matter they’re from different schools,” said Aidan Tucker (12).
Due to COVID-19, the structure of the season was cut way shorter than in previous years. “They’re limiting the schedule of games. I was hoping they would increase it because all of this schedule remaking was in January, and now things have improved. We could certainly have the playoffs scheduled to be larger, but they’re not going to change it,” said Mielnicki. “Also, the playoff structure now is much different. They’re only taking four teams to the Frozen 4, which we are not one of those, and normally we haven’t missed the playoffs since I’ve been there because of COVID-19.”
Then again, there were other changes to their season due to the coronavirus disease and restrictions and regulations that the team had to face. “Wearing a mask and limits to how many people can come to games were the major restrictions,” said Tucker. During practice, the player and the coaches had to wear masks and in the dressing room before games. “ Initially we started with zero spectators, and now at our home rink and Family Sports, we are allowed to have two spectators per player,” said Mielnicki.
Even though hockey is a school sport, it opens up doors for athletes looking to continue after school. After the season ends, there is a Colorado tryout for the National Inventaial team that will compete in Minnesota at the end of April in front of some of the top division one schools in the country. “ This year, we are hopeful that we will have several of our players get chosen. It’s probably once a lifetime opportunity to compete on that team,” said Mielnicki.
As impressive as qualifying for this is, it is quite the process. Despite the complicated process, CT had two of their athletes qualify, Aidan Tucker and Aiden Clay. “They start with 80 players, and they narrow it down to 24. Best players from the high school hockey teams make it,” said Tucker. “It’s a great opportunity for me to go to the next level after high school, and it’s something I want to make happen.”
Some athletes even plan to play hockey in college, but the covid-19 made it hard for scouts to watch the players, but hockey got lucky. “We were fortunate enough that I did get our team in North America, prospects Hockey League which allowed us to travel six or seven times to hockey hotbeds, and they have our players scouted and videoed, and without that, having our players been seen would be a challenge,” said Mielnicki.
Although hockey isn’t the most popular sport, a lot can happen in those three periods. “ One of my favorite hockey moments was last year when Luke Flay scored to tie the game in the playoffs with 10 seconds left,” said Tucker. While the players make it look easy, getting the biscuit in the basket might be more complex than some might think.
Even though COVID-19 happened, the team is doing their best to have a regular season, and it’s certainly not stopping the player from playing their best. “ I think the kids have done a great job adapting to it [COVID-19]. Knowing that everyone is going through it, and it’s just something we have to do,” said Mielnicki.