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An Aspen hockey first

Tim Mutrie

Goalie Jacqueline Pearlstone led two different Aspen girls hockey teams to state championships yesterday during the second annual Mountain States Girls Hockey League Tournament in Breckenridge.

Pearlstone, a sophomore at Aspen High School and goalie for the Aspen under-15 and under-19 girls hockey teams, played eight games for the two teams Saturday and Sunday, including two state finals matches.

“She was amazing, just amazing,” said Aspen’s U-19 coach, Peter Whitmore. “Eight games in two days at 9,500 feet. She barely had time to take her pads off in between games.”

The state crowns are a first for both teams and come less than a week after the Aspen High School boys hockey team lost a heartbreaking game in overtime in the finals of the Colorado High School State Championships.

In the U-15 division, No. 1 seed Aspen blanked Steamboat Springs 7-0 in the first-round game Saturday and then beat Vail 4-1 to advance to the finals. Vail, the No. 2 seed, battled back through the consolation bracket to meet Aspen in the final game, said Aspen’s U-15 coach, Tom Melberg.

Vail took a 1-0 lead in the first period of the championship game yesterday, but Aspen’s Reilly Gallagher tied the game at 1-1 on a goal near the end of the first period. In the second Vail took a 2-1 advantage, and then remained on top deep into the third, when Aspen’s Dylan Braun scored with less than five minutes to play in the final period.

After regulation, and a five-minute sudden-death overtime period, the teams were locked in a 2-2 tie, forcing a five-man shootout.

Pearlstone blocked Vail’s first shootout opportunity, and 10-year-old Maggie Melberg, the youngest player in the tourney, responded with a goal to give Aspen a 3-2 advantage with four shooters remaining.

Again, Pearlstone denied Vail, though Aspen failed to convert its second chance. Pearlstone saved Vail’s third offering before Reilly Gallagher scored on her shootout opportunity to seal Aspen’s 4-2 win. The win also capped off a 13-0 undefeated season for the U-15 Aspen girls.

“Coming back in a championship game twice showed a lot of heart,” said Melberg, who coaches the team with Dan Johns. “And then to win it in a shootout was very exciting for us. I take my hat off to Jacqueline Pearlstone for stuffing Vail. And we had great defense from Lauren Johns and Carly McGill.”

Last year, the U-15 Aspen girls lost to Vail in the finals of the first-ever state tournament. The U-19 Aspen girls also fell short in the finals last year, losing to a Denver University club team.

“So it was sweet revenge,” Melberg said. “Everybody was exuberant.”

In the U-19 division, Aspen suited up just 10 skaters, including three players from the U-15 squad – Pearlstone, Braun and Gallagher.

“They really sucked it up, playing eight games,” said Whitmore, who coaches the U-19 team along with Doug Coombe and Jere Pynonnen. “It was an endurance contest and, as a result, was very gratifying.”

The U-19 Aspen girls smoked Steamboat Springs 5-0 in a first-round game Saturday and then lost 3-0 to Colorado Springs. That forced Aspen into the consolation bracket of the double-elimination-style tourney.

On Sunday, Aspen rebounded to beat Denver University 7-1, “and that put us back in the championship game against Colorado Springs,” Whitmore said.

“But we had to beat them twice,” he explained, “because it was a double elimination.”

In the first meeting, Aspen skated to a 3-0 victory. In the second game – the championship because both teams each had one loss – Aspen squeaked out a 1-0 win, thanks to a Kate Linehan goal and Pearlstone’s efforts between the pipes.

“We dominated both games, but [Colorado Springs’] goaltending was quite strong,” Whitmore said. “Our senior line of Sascha Anastas, Heidi Hauenstein and Kate Linehan played very well for us, as did forwards Ashley and Desiree Pynonnen,” two sisters from Basalt High School.

Aspen defenders Elizabeth Severy, Alia Strong and Ella Melberg shored up the Aspen blue line, he added.

Whitmore said that immediately after Pearlstone blanked Vail in the shootout to win the U-15 championship, she took the ice with the U-19 team and shut out Colorado Springs in back-to-back games.

“It was a marathon for her, and the team,” he said. “That’s a lot of hockey at altitude.”

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Posted: Monday, March 5, 2001


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