The Telluride Lizard Head Youth Hockey Club held its 4th annual Alumni Games on Friday, which drew hundreds of spectators and over 75 alumni to the Hanley Rink in Telluride Town Park. (Courtesy photo)

Last Friday the Telluride Lizard Head Youth Hockey Club held its fourth annual alumni games, drawing hundreds of spectators to watch 75 alumni and coaches, ages 14-50, compete in two back-to-back games at Hanley Rink in Telluride Town Park. For the past several years, longtime local and hockey enthusiast Teddy Errico and Grayson Fertig, Lizard Head executive director, have organized the event to provide a venue for past players to have fun playing hockey. The club hosted two games instead of one this year, resulting in close scores and the highest level of play to date.

Older alumni matched up in a 7 p.m. game featuring odd high school graduating years (dark) against even graduating years (light) skating to a 2-2 tie. Lizard Head alum Robert Brown, who played “a mix of defense, offense and blue-line poacher,” reported deep benches with most players in “worse shape than our middle school years, not jonesing for extra shifts.”

“Wynton Brown scored for the darks, and I believe Johno Hoins scored for the lights, but the goalies stole the show,” he recounted. “Although there was no checking, a few pairs of close friends delivered some hits, much to the crowd’s delight.”

The 8:30 p.m. game saw younger, mixed high school- and college-aged alumni compete with Team Jake O'Brien edging out Team Red Higgins 4-3. Lizard Head coach Kevin Holbrook, whose sons Brady and Leyton are current club players, helped organize the younger alumni game ,along with Jake O’Brien and Red Higgins, who’ve coached the last few years and jumped on the ice to compete. Holbrook reported stellar goal-tending from Caleb Hobbs, Brooklyn Godsiak, Luka Remec, and Rocky and Roman Reibel, and noted that Landon Kusuno scored the winning goal for Team Jake O’Brien with only four seconds left in the game.

“It was great seeing siblings playing alongside each other,” added Holbrook. “And for the parents to see that.”

Even though he isn’t technically an alum, as the event organizer, Errico “snuck in” to play both games. Pleased with the number of skaters who continue to play hockey beyond school, Errico noted that the local co-ed league affords the best opportunity for past players to compete locally, while others continue to play in their hometowns of Boulder, Denver and various towns back east.

“The goal of any youth hockey club should be to teach a sport that you can play and enjoy for a lifetime,” he said. “Not only is the exercise good, but when you move to a new place, you meet good people at the local rink. That’s how, back in 1996, I met so many great people at the old outdoor rink.”

A turnout of about a dozen Lizard Head lady alumnae, including Caroline Pekkala, Emma Walker Silverman, the Distefano sisters and Madison (Ward) Nelson, added feisty play to the games. Errico noteed that a number of male and female skaters play in prep school and college club programs with some high school graduates even playing at the Junior Hockey level.

“Ashyln Marshall started playing here and now plays for Concordia University in Wisconsin and might be the only active NCAA player,” he added. “Another alumni who played in both games, Hurley Kane, also competed at the NCAA Division III level at Worcester State, over 10 years ago.”

Kane, who played Lizard Head youth hockey off and on from 1994-2007 and currently plays with the Telluride Men’s A Team, concurs that the talent at this year’s event was top-notch.

“It was great to be back on the ice with former players like ‘Lighting Legs’ Jesse Lamb and Carlos ‘The Hack’ Cagin,” he said. “It’s really special to see how far Telluride hockey has come in the last 30 years — from playing hockey on an outdoor pond three months of the year to having indoor ice and putting kids in Junior Hockey programs consistently. It’s a real accomplishment for a small town in southwest Colorado.”

Just 48 hours before the first puck dropped, only a third of the players had registered to compete, which presented some organizing challenges. Moving forward, Errico hopes to offer earlier signups, concessions, and is considering adding additional games and offering a big party afterwards. With around 200 hooting and hollering spectators in the stands, Errico said the event has improved each year.

While he had a couple of 30-packs on hand, Errico and a crew of players headed to The Buck and Oak after the game to enjoy celebratory beers.

“Thanks to Joe Distefano and Adam Murray for refereeing and to the entire Parks and Recreation Department for working hard over the holiday and helping to make the event,” he added. “Be sure to support the hockey club as one of the major goals is to get Telluride High School into the official Colorado High School Activities Association. That would be a dream come true.”