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Lady Avs score big wins

Ben Husband

Out of all the tournaments that the Aspen Junior Girls’ Tier I hockey team was scheduled to play this year, one stood out perhaps more than the rest.

The Hartford, Conn., 14th annual Holiday Tournament – a tournament that hosts 20 junior girls’ teams from all over the country. The tournament has been labeled as the toughest junior girls contest in the country.

Aspen left for Hartford early Christmas morning with the hopes of having a “successful tournament,” said coach Wily Manering.

Manering, who led the Lady Avalanche to the national tournament in their debut season last year, said that in order to get back to the national tournament “you have to play the best, which is why we wanted to play at this tournament.”

Manering also added that this tournament was to be the team’s “first true test of the season.”

When the annual tournament ended last Wednesday, Aspen, according to Manering, was now among the talked about teams in the nation.

Aspen exited the 20-team tourney with an impressive 3-1 record, including a huge 3-1 win over Team Michigan, a team that Aspen lost to in last March’s national tournament.

After arriving in Connecticut late Christmas night, Aspen opened tournament play with a 2-1 loss to New England last Saturday.

After New England took a 1-0 lead in the opening period, Aspen tied the score at 1-1 late in the third period of a rebound goal from Courtney Brinkerhoff.

But with less than two minutes remaining, New England scored to capture the win.

There was some controversy however as the games were played with 15-minute periods instead of the scheduled 12 minutes. But the Aspen protest was overruled.

Two hours later, Aspen took the ice again against the Princeton Tiger Lilies – an all-star select team from the New Jersey area.

With Aspen leading 3-1 late in the second period, the game was canceled because the ice was originally scheduled to host a local birthday party at the time the game was being played.

So the two teams were forced play the game over two hours later, with Aspen winning 2-0.

Brinkerhoff and Kristin Harn, playing with severe cases of the flu, both scored in the win.

On the next day came Aspen’s enormous win over Team Michigan.

Despite playing with several ill players, Aspen managed to skate to the 32-1 victory.

Brinkerhoff, having what Manering described as a “breakout performance,” continued her scoring assault with her third goal of the tournament off what Manering called a thrilling assist from Bekka Lass, Harn and Jenny Rice.

Team Michigan tied the game at 1-1 late in the third period, but Mickey Tofte scored on a power play with just under four minutes to go, to secure the win.

With their three wins, Aspen finished the tournament with nine-and-a-half points, missing the semifinals by a half-point.

“Now that we know what we can do,” he said. “The girls will settle for nothing less.”

The Lady Avs continued their dominating performance in Albuquerque by winning the tournament with a another huge win over Team California, a team that finished second at nationals last year.

For more coverage on the Lady Avs’ successful road trip, see Friday’s Aspen Times Weekly sports section.


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