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18U Coyotes win title at Palouse Winter Freeze Tournament

by IAN BIVONA
Sports Reporter | December 20, 2023 1:20 AM

MOSES LAKE — For the second straight year, the Moses Lake 18U Coyotes left the Palouse Winter Freeze Tournament as champions, bouncing back from an opening-game loss to the Tri-Cities Junior Americans to win four straight games and leave with a first-place banner.

“It took them looking at their own game, realizing that they had to skate harder and win the battles that they weren’t putting the effort in to win previously,” said Paul Davies, head coach of the 18U Coyotes. “They had to go hard every single shift almost all of those games — three of the four were very close games.”

The tournament opened with a 6-2 loss to the Junior Americans in pool play, forcing Moses Lake’s backs against the wall and requiring two wins to clinch a spot in the semifinals.

“That was an eye-opener for the kids,” Davies said of the loss. “I think part of it, mentally, because we won it last year we thought it was gonna be a cakewalk, and( we would) just walk through the tournament. That was the eye-opener, like, ‘We’re going to have to put in some effort for this one.”

Moses Lake went on to defeat Sno-King Junior Thunderbirds 2-1 on Saturday morning, later defeating Lewiston/Clarkston 7-0 to reach the semifinals.

“The kids recognized that they didn’t have a good game, and so they regrouped and they just went to town,” Davies said. “They worked hard.”

In the semifinals, Moses Lake matched up against the Palouse Bears (Red) in a closely contested game; after trailing by a goal most of the game, Moses Lake’s Mason Solders tied things up to force a shootout where the Coyotes added goals on shootout attempts by Travis Shearer and Dalton Freidig.

“We were down 1-0 for a lot of that game and even though it was just one goal, they were starting to get a little frustrated and so they regrouped,” Davies said. “Had an excellent goal by Mason (Solders) and tied it.” 

The win lifted Moses Lake into the title game, having won the same tournament last year.

“You always have the desire to win it again, because you’ve tasted it once,” Davies said. “We thought that we were better this year so we had a good chance of repeating. That was the goal; loose expectations, don’t want to disappoint too bad.”

Shearer recorded a hat trick in the 3-2 Coyote win, bringing home a first-place finish from Moscow, Idaho.

“Four straight (wins) is intense, so we were taking it one shift, one goal at a time to claw back,” Davies said. “They literally had to fight for every goal, in every shift to make it. They really focused on taking it one step at a time and one game at a time. Once we got to that championship, they felt like they had earned it.”

Davies noted altering the game plan and creating a new fourth line after the loss to Tri-Cities paid dividends in clinching a title at the tournament.

“They were lights out all four of those games,” Davies said. “Cycled the puck, worked together, heads-up — they were absolutely rockstars for us.”

Moses Lake’s next tournament is in Tri-Cities in late January, and the Coyotes will be on their home ice for the Moses Lake Youth Hockey Association’s Winter Classic in early February.

Ian Bivona may be reached at ibivona@columbiabasinherald.com.

    Moses Lake’s Travis Shearer, left, Noah Burns, center, and Wyatt Horst, right, smile with the first-place banner at last weekend’s Palouse Winter Freeze Tournament in Moscow, Idaho.