Lady Avs take one from Minnesotans
“Even if we’re getting killed, we’re getting killed by the best. And that’s fun.”
That was the comment Sunday from Ellen Falender, one of five Aspen High School student-athletes on the elite Aspen Avalanche Tier-1 under-19 girls hockey team.
On Sunday morning, the so-called Lady Avs – essentially a Rocky Mountain region all-star team that competes in the highest level of girls hockey, one notch below collegiate division I – concluded a four-game series with Shattuck St. Mary’s, a boarding school in Faribault, Minn., that features one of the top girls hockey programs in the nation.
Aspen managed to take one game from Shattuck – a 2-1 victory on Saturday – and nearly stole the fourth and final contest Sunday.
The Lady Avs draw six players from the Roaring Fork Valley. The rest of the roster is filled out with players from elsewhere in the West: from Utah to Texas to Wisconsin. Considering that the Lady Avs only had their first practice Saturday, they weren’t too disappointed.
“It’s hard because you spend half the game figuring out your own team,” said Lady Avs forward Ali Crum, a senior at AHS. “We have amazing chemistry on our team and I see glimpses of it, but we need to try to capture it more often.”
On Sunday, Shattuck skated to a 2-0 lead halfway through the second 15-minute period before the Lady Avs battled back into contention. Crum, who plans to play in college, led an Aspen rush that resulted in a goal when Jesse Garner (of Idaho Falls, Idaho) scored on a rebound, assisted by Crum and Alysia Park of Highland Village, Texas.
Shattuck went up 3-1 with less than two minutes remaining in the period before the combination of Park and Crum connected for another goal with 30 seconds remaining. Bree Cote, a player from the Salt Lake City area, also earned an assist on the goal. Five minutes into the third period, Aspen tied the game at 3-3 when Aspen’s Elizabeth Severy hooked up with Wisconsin’s Cyndy Kenyon for a score. Aspen goalie Kamerie Cote, who played phenomenal in net all weekend, ran out of luck in the third and allowed the winning Shattuck goal in the 4-3 final.
After Aspen’s final attacking efforts were turned away, one fan spoke for the small audience at the Aspen Ice Garden when he shouted, “One hell of a game!”
“This was a very good weekend for us,” said Doug Coombe, who coaches the Lady Avs with Peter Whitmore. “It shows us that we’re right there with a lot of the nationally ranked teams and that on any given night we can beat anyone.”
The last two seasons, the second and third years of the Lady Avs’ existence, the team has advanced to the final eight and final four, respectively, of the under-19 Tier-1 national tournament. It’s an upward trend that the team would like to continue.
“We’re competing against teams that play and practice at such a high level,” Coombe said. “The way our setup is, we try to get girls who want to play, but you don’t always know exactly how it’s going to work between not knowing how the new girls will work out and not practicing. But we’re not going away. We’re going to give it another run this year.”
In order to advance to the national tournament this year, the Lady Avs must win the Rocky Mountain Regional Tournament March 7-11 in Houston, Texas.
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.