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story.lead_photo.caption Peewee hockey teams from St. Louis and Northwest Arkansas battle on the ice Sunday morning during the Jefferson City Winterland Friendship Games at Washington Park Ice Arena. Photo by Gerry Tritz / News Tribune.

Will Boyer took his hockey team's 2-2 record this weekend in stride, pleased that he scored three goals for his team.

He was among nearly 100 youth hockey players at this weekend's Jefferson City Winterland Friendship Games at Washington Park Ice Arena.

"I like trying to get in the zone, screening a goalie and scoring goals," the Jefferson City youth said after his final game Sunday.

One day, he said, he would love to play professionally.

He and others were buoyed by the St. Louis Blues' recent Stanley Cup victory.

"It's just great for Mid-Missouri in general," said Nathan Breckenridge, who coaches Will's team, the Mid-Missouri Tigers.

"Hockey's not too big of a sport around here," he said, adding that he often comes across people who are unaware the Washington Park Ice Arena exists. Since the Blues' win, however, people have been more in tune to hockey and he's seen more interest in the game from youths who have been watching the St. Louis team.

Breckenridge is a former player who started coaching the team last year.

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"I grew up playing hockey and I wanted to give back to my community," he said. "I had a lot of good coaches growing up, some really good mentors, and I wanted to do that for some kids here."

After their final Sunday game, a loss, Breckenridge told his players to adjust each game and assess what they did well and not so well. He specifically urged them to work on their skating and to stay active during the summer so they'll be in shape when the hockey season starts in the fall.

Ryan Schultz, an employee at the ice rink, said the event drew nine teams, including ones from St. Louis, Springfield and even Arkansas. They played a total of 17 games this weekend, with teams divided in squirts (10 and younger) and peewee (12 and younger).

The round-robin-style event lets everyone play everyone, he said. It gives youth hockey players at all levels the chance to play games without the pressure of winning a tournament. No trophies are given, and everyone is considered a winner just for playing, according to the program.

Schultz said the event brought about 200 people to Jefferson City this weekend.

Washington Park Ice Arena was forced to close temporarily due to flooding from Wear's Creek this spring.

Schultz said that with a recent flash flood warning, employees were worried about this weekend, but fortunately the arena was able to stay open.

Hockey supporters at the event said the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department offers several ways for youths to get involved in the sport. The Learn-to-Play hockey program has summer and fall sessions to teach skating and stick skills to all levels. Also, a "try hockey free" day is scheduled 10:30-11:30 a.m. Aug. 3 at the ice arena.

For more information, contact the department at 573-634-6482.

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