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Hail to the conquering heroes

Dear Editor:

For those viewers who were too tied up watching curling on CNBC to notice, the Aspen U-14 girls hockey team is now the Colorado state champions!

That’s right, our tiny town’s girls hockey program has turned out a team that has triumphed over every other contender (including some scary Denver, Arvada, Crested Butte, Santa Fe and Steamboat girls), having vanquished all comers with aggressiveness, style and the occasional body check where it was merited.

After the road trip down to The Edge (Denver’s ARC) the girls were faced with five increasingly grueling games this weekend, tackling determined opponents (and their rabid, vociferous fans) one after the other, including a 5 a.m. wake-up call game Sunday. They dug deep and came back from behind several times to win every game, much to the chagrin of the quasi-unhinged fans (and in one game, two wholly owned local referees).

The final was a heart attack-inducing struggle with a fearsome Steamboat team that had just annihilated Crested Butte the game before, 6-0. After three periods and countless shots on goal, the game was tied, and went into overtime (remind you of anyone we else know?). Lacking Sidney Crosby, our girls ended up after two overtimes still tied.

This meant the state championship would be determined in a gladiatorial best-of-five penalty shoot-out – every hockey goalie’s nightmare – where a player careens full speed, unblocked, toward the goal and then, at point-blank range, shoots it as hard (or deviously) as she can. It is mano-a-mano (or hermana-a-hermana) at its most brutal.

Aspen’s Maddie Grant, who already had made dozens of miraculous saves to get us to this point, crouched in the goal, waiting for the right split second to deflect the shot of each player as she sped down on her. The Aspen fans by this time were clutching their hearts and calling for amyl nitrate and oxygen.

Maddie blocked the first one with such ferocity, it was clear Steamboat was going to need their own Crosby to score. Now it was our turn. Aspen’s Kylie Davis promptly drove one by the (very impressive) Steamboat goalie with a fast backhand move. Their turn. The next Steamboat forward slammed a blistering slap shot at point-blank range that got by Maddie, so again we were tied. Our turn. Now it was the amazing Ari Buxman who put us ahead, with some characteristically dazzling stick-work that left their goalie splayed out completely in the other side of the goal, and the puck in the net.

Maddie shut out the rest of Steamboat’s shots, and that was it! The U-14s brought home the gold! Congratulations to all of the girls, and the coaches, Chris Tyler, Doug Coombs and Mowita, who ensured that our girls had brilliant strategy, morale, focus and hair conditioner. And congratulations to the parents, who know what incomprehensible commitment is required to enable our girls to follow their dream (and win it, and bring it home!). Girls rule!

Kevin Ward

Snowmass


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