PASCO — The fact they were playing against hockey clubs from Spokane, Seattle and the Tri-Cities made it interesting. The fact they went in as the No. 1 seed put the bullseye squarely between the M and the L.
But the Moses Lake Coyotes held up their end of the bargain, winning four straight matches en route to the state championship at the U10 gold division state festival.
They dropped a 5-2 decision to the Spokane Indian Squirts in the tournament opener at the TRAC Center in Pasco. It didn’t look good losing the opener, but the Coyotes came back with an offensive showcase, scoring a combined 21 goals over the next three matches to get back to the championship game. They beat Sno King No. 1 of Seattle 7-1, then plowed through Tri-Cities 6-0 in front of a hometown crowd. The Coyotes cranked up the offense with eight goals against Sno King No. 2 in an 8-2 victory to set up a shot at the U10 state championship, ironically, against the team that beat them on the first day — Spokane.
“This is incredible. We never dreamt of anything like this,” Moses Lake Hockey Association president Ty Howard said. “A couple of years ago when we lost our rink (due to city budget cuts), we weren’t sure we’d survive. But we came back strong as an association and this officially puts us on the map. The state knows about Moses Lake hockey now.”
The Coyotes went into the title match with 23 goals to their credit, but Championship Sunday was a defensive struggle. It was two teams, one trophy and a match of skill, wits and determination.
“You just have to keep your head up and trust in your training,” said Lakeview Elementary fourth grader Keegan Stickel, who scored the game-winner. “You have to play like you practice, try and remember all the stuff you do everyday.”
Moses Lake finally broke through with a rebound goal. Connor Ellingsen had a breakaway opportunity and put the shot on the Spokane goaltender, who made initial stop. But it popped loose in front of the net. Stickel, the Coyote winger, did what he’s practiced over and over and followed the shot into the net where he was there to flick the winning goal home. “Connor made this amazing run on the breakaway. The goalie stopped it, but I was right there,” said Stickel, who is just one of two nine-year-olds on the team. “It was cool. We were so happy.”
That 1-0 victory in the gold division was enough to bring home the gold medal, not to Seattle, not to Spokane or Tri-Cities, but the Moses Lake where they are quietly building a program that can and will compete with the rest of Washington state.
The Moses Lake U12 team finished third in their age division.
Rodney Harwood is a sports writer with the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org