Lady Avs unseat the best in quest for a national title |

Lady Avs unseat the best in quest for a national title

The Aspen Junior Girls Tier 1 hockey team enjoyed the sweet taste of revenge Tuesday when it beat the top team in the country, the same team that ended last year’s hopes of a national title.

And it made the chance of winning a national title this year all that much more likely.

The Lady Avs scored the biggest victory of the team’s two-year history with a 3-1 win over Minnesota during the 1999 Women’s/Girls National Hockey Tournament in Washington, D.C.

It was just a year ago that Minnesota blasted Aspen 12-0 in the opening game of the National Tournament in Anaheim, Calif. It was the first of four straight losses by a combined score of 32-2 for the Lady Avs.

Spirits on the team are definitely higher this year. The Lady Avs played a tough game Tuesday and shocked the Thoroughbreds, a team many felt would walk away with this year’s national title.

Aspen High School sophomore Ali Crum scored two goals and fellow sophomore Bekka Lass also scored. The win left Minnesota “stunned and in complete shock,” said Aspen coach Wily Manering in a phone interview with The Aspen Times.

“This is unbelievable,” Manering said. “This is far and beyond the biggest win this team has ever come across and they did it with textbook disciplined hockey.

“We had our bad moments on the ice, but the team stayed together. They didn’t let up and they refused to give up. And because of that we did what no one thought we could do – defeat the top team in the nation.”

Canadian All-Star goalkeeper Kim Raymond, playing for the Avs, stopped 16 of 17 shots.

“She played the exact game we needed her to play,” Manering said. “She needed to make the impossible saves and she did. Kim gave this team what we needed to compete at this level.”

Manering said the defensive line of Kristin Harn, Julianne Vaschiek, Kendall French and Mikki Tofte – who played for Minnesota last year – were “relentless the entire game.”

“They shut down the guns of Minnesota,” he said. “They turned off their lights.”

Shutting down Minnesota’s high-powered offense made it easier for Aspen’s lightning-quick offense to work its magic. Bridget Davenport, Courtney Brinkerhoff, Jenny Rice and Carrie Holldorf worked together to accomplish what Manering said “is as big of an upset in girls hockey as you’ll ever see.” The game In a pregame chat, Manering and the Minnesota coach, Steve Webber, talked about last year’s game.

“We had a nice talk,” Manering said. “But all he remembered about us was the 12-0 loss last year and he said that he [hoped it would be] a better game this time around.”

That it was.

Ten minutes into the opening period, Aspen struck first blood. After a number of impressive stops by the defense, Davenport sent a long pass to Crum. She broke free and fired a shot past the Minnesota goalie for the early, and surprising, 1-0 lead.

“That goal gave this team a lot of momentum for the rest of the game,” Manering said.

The score remained 1-0 until the 3:52 mark of the second period, when Aspen struck again.

This time, it was Tofte who abused her former teammates. She fired a bullet in front of the net that ricocheted off a defender and into the net, putting Aspen in the driver’s seat with a 2-0 lead.

“Having a 2-0 lead against this team is unheard of,” Manering said. “It just doesn’t happen – especially not at the National Tournament.”

During the 10-minute intermission between the second and third periods, Manering told his team that the Thoroughbreds “would come out on fire and like machines.”

And they did.

Less than three minutes into the final period, Minnesota finally found the net. But the Minnesota machine couldn’t continue to operate in high gear because Aspen’s defense “came through,” said Manering.

And with five minutes left in regulation, Aspen put the game away when Crum scored her second goal with a move that Manering said “would have made the ESPN highlight film.”

Holldorf got the puck beyond the blue line and sent a pass to Lass, who beat two Minnesota defensemen and was able to send a backhand pass to Crum on the wing.

Crum, according to Manering, then took the puck in front of the net and fired a backhand shot past the keeper.

With the sounding of the final buzzer, the celebration was on.

“We knew what we had to do and we did it,” Manering said. “This is just unbelievable. These girls deserve this win and they now know what it takes to win. …

“Now they can really and truly believe what disciplined hockey can do. We needed this game and it we got it.”

Aspen next faces the California Selects at 1 p.m. today (11 a.m. Eastern Standard Time).

Next on Aspen’s list is Assabet Valley (Mass.), a team that topped the Lady Avs 8-0 in last year’s National tourney, at 6 p.m. (EST), 4 p.m. Aspen time. On Friday, Aspen will hit the ice against the Ohio Flames at 5:15 p.m. (EST), 3:15 p.m. Aspen time.

The playoffs begin Saturday with the championship game Sunday.

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