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Rocky Mountain Youth Notebook: Colorado Thunderbirds Playing the Name Game

By Michael Hicks, 03/19/19, 3:00PM MDT


A pair of famously-named brothers lead Colorado to district title, and other action from around the tournament

Their first names are David and Marek, but it’s their last name that draws the most attention. Maybe you’ve heard of it: Hejduk. That’s as in the sons of Milan Hejduk, the longtime All-Star forward for the Colorado Avalanche.

While the 15-year-old twins and Legend (Colorado) High School students — David a defenseman and Marek a left winger — might be recognized for their name, it’s their skill set on the ice that is taking the Colorado Thunderbirds to the 2019 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I National Championships.

Colorado defeated the Arizona Junior Coyotes 4-1 in the 14U championship game of the USA Hockey Rocky Mountain District Tournament on Sunday at the Ice Ranch in Littleton, Colorado. The Thunderbirds went 3-1 during the weekend, outscoring the competition 18-5. Nationals are scheduled for April 3-8 in Pittsburgh.

“We’re excited,” David said.

Still, their father and head coach won’t let them rest on their name itself, nor that of their teammates.

“The name doesn’t mean much. You’ve got to prove it every day,” Milan said. “As long as they love the game I’m happy to coach them and happy to coach this team. It’s a good group.”

Eventually, the Hejduk boys want to follow in their father’s footsteps and play professionally.

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“Obviously, I want to make it to the NHL,” Marek said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do yet after high school, but the main goal is making it to the NHL.”

For now, though, going to nationals is plenty enough. That’s been the goal all season. Now it’s a reality.

Peter Jacobs’ sleight of hand pays off for Colorado Rampage 18U

It’s a play that Peter Jacobs tries all the time in practice on his Colorado Rampage goalie teammate Andrew Kelly. The 18-year-old right winger originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, skates down the right side, fakes a shot to get the goalie to bite and goes to his backhand on the left side.

This time against the Arizona Jr. Coyotes, it worked like a charm, breaking a scoring drought in the shootout in a 3-2 Rampage pool play win in the 18U division at the Rocky Mountain District Tournament.

“I was fortunate to score,” the modest Jacobs said.

Fortunate or not, it advanced Colorado into the final, where it was dominant in a 6-1 win over the Dallas Stars Elite on Sunday at the Family Sports Center in Englewood, Colorado. The Rampage advanced to 18U nationals, April 3-8 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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So does Jacobs’ sleight of hands work in practice?

“If he gets it off, it works sometimes,” Kelly laughed.

While Jacobs was breaking the deadlock, Kelly was standing on his head in goal. The 19-year-old from Hatfield, Pennsylvania, pitched a shutout, stopping all four shots on goal, including a sprawling glove-side save.

“All I can do is stop the shots and let my team do the job of scoring the goals,” Kelly said. “I was just staying with the shooter, keeping my hands up and [I] wound up stopping all of them.”

Jake Johnson leads on the ice for Arizona Junior Coyotes
To speak to him, one might find Jake Johnson to be a modest 15-year-old. But the Scottsdale, Arizona, defenseman is already starting to make a name for himself on the ice.

A skater since he was 3 and hockey player two years later, Johnson has gravitated to the game. He’s also a leader on the ice, having been named a team captain for the 15-Only Arizona Junior Coyotes.

“They all look up to you. It’s nice to lead on and off the ice,” Johnson said.
This weekend, he led the Coyotes to the 15-Only title at the Rocky Mountain District Tournament with a 5-0 win over the Colorado Thunderbirds in the final. Arizona allowed just one goal in three games at the Ice Ranch.

2019 USA Hockey Rocky Mountain District Youth Tier I Tournament Champions

14U: Colorado Thunderbirds

15-Only: Arizona Junior Coyotes

16U: Arizona Junior Coyotes

18U: Colorado Rampage

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Chipotle is the title sponsor of the 2019 Chipotle-USA Hockey National Championships.

2019 Tournament News