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Lady Avs net regional championship

Tim Mutrie

For the fourth straight year, the Aspen Avalanche Tier-1 under-19 girls hockey team will compete in the Tier-1 National Championships, slated for April 4-8 in Minneapolis.

By winning the Tier-1 under-19 Rocky Mountain Regional Championships in Houston, Texas, this past weekend, the so-called Lady Avs earned one of 12 berths at the elite Tier-1 National Championships, the premier level of girls hockey, one level below collegiate division I.

“We all feel we’re in a great position going into the tournament. Everyone’s playing well and we look forward to the challenge in Minneapolis,” Aspen coach Doug Coombe said yesterday during a phone interview from Houston.

Five teams competed in the Tier-1 under-19 Rocky Mountain Regional Championships for the right to advance to the national championships.

The Lady Avs faced their stoutest competition in the opening game of the round-robin-style tourney against the Front Range-based Colorado Extreme Friday morning at 7 a.m.

“We knew that was the pivotal game, and we came out flying,” Coombe said.

With six seconds remaining in the first period, Aspen High School senior Ali Crum scored to break a scoreless tie, assisted by Carrie Holldorf and Amy Goodney.

The Colorado Extreme “ran into some penalty problems in the second, and we capitalized,” Coombe said. During a 4-on-3 advantage, Aspen High junior Elizabeth Severy uncorked a blazing slap shot from the point that beat the Extreme goalie. Goodney and Kim Hayden assisted on the play.

“When we got two goals it pretty much deflated [the Extreme],” Coombe said, “until the end of the third period, when we killed a 5-on-3 power play for two minutes with less than five minutes to play. I think we gave up just two shots, but it was intense. Very tight.”

Aspen goalie Kammie Kote, one of several players on the Lady Avs’ roster who hail from beyond the state, recorded the shutout. Coombe estimated that Aspen outshot the Extreme by a margin of 2 to 1, about 30 shots to 15.

After the Extreme win, the Lady Avs went on to crush the three other teams in the tourney: 9-1 over Montana; 11-0 over the New Mexico/Houston-based Southwest Hurricanes; and, finally, 8-0 over the Dallas Lonestar Wolves.

“It was unfortunate that we had to play [the Extreme] in the opener, because it was the best game of the weekend,” said Coombe. “The Extreme beat the other teams by three to six goals, but it was a straight draw and that’s the way it worked out.”

Kammie Kote “gave up one goal in four games,” Coombe noted. “And she made some very big saves for us when we needed it in the Extreme game.

“We just outclassed the other teams,” Coombe said, “but at the same time, it gave us a chance to work on some things, and we played well. We had a lot of compliments about how we skate and pass the puck.”

The Lady Avs dressed 14 players for the tourney, including five Aspen girls – Crum, Severy, Sascha Anastas, Heidi Hauenstein and Ellen Falender – and an assortment of other players from Utah, Wisconsin and Idaho who play with the team for lack of an alternative elsewhere. The team will assemble again just before the April 4 opening of the national championships.

“For a lot of these girls, this is their last chance to try and win a national championship,” Coombe said. “It’s always great to have that chance, and this team has been fortunate enough to participate in three of them already.”

Last year, the Lady Avs advanced to the final four at the national championships, an improvement from two years ago when the team made the round of eight. Three years ago, in the Lady Avs’ national championship debut, the team failed to place.

“Every year, you learn something more, and this year we’ve got good chemistry and a great goaltender,” Coombe said. “And anything can happen in hockey.”

At the national championships, the 12 teams are divided into three pools for opening round play. After pool play, the top eight teams (based on two points for a win, one point for a tie) advance into the quarterfinals, Coombe explained.

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