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Puckers kiss trophy again

Jon Maletz
Aspen Times File Photo of The Aspen Mother Puckers women's hockey team, who won it's second straight Women's Association of Colorado Hockey championship Sunday in Breckenridge.
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The Stella Cup is staying put for another year.Aspen’s Mother Puckers overcame a pair of fractured ribs and a tough draw Sunday to win the Women’s Association of Colorado Hockey championship against the Mavericks of Denver, 5-2, in Breckenridge. It was the team’s second consecutive league title and a fitting birthday present for head coach Steve Costalas.”I couldn’t ask for anything better on my birthday than having the cup in my hands,” Costalas said Tuesday. “It was a fantastic weekend and a wonderful team effort.”For a second straight season the Puckers beat the Mavericks in the title game. Once again, the Puckers and their coach had to sweat it out for nearly two full periods. Despite the Mavericks’ lack of depth – they had only seven skaters resulting from one suspension after an illegal check in the semifinals – they were able to skate to a scoreless first period with the Puckers. Five minutes into the second, the Mavericks took the lead.

The Puckers responded with a goal by Tina Schairer before the Mavericks again took the lead on a power-play goal five minutes before intermission. “I had faith,” Costalas said. “I knew it was only a matter of time before we hit that ‘on’ button.”Four unanswered goals during the final 20 minutes sealed a Puckers victory. The first came in the final seconds of the second period on a slap shot from the blue line by defenseman Sahrina McIntire. Susie Theriot, the Puckers co-captain, recorded a hat trick in the final period to help the team pull away. For her efforts, Theriot won the game’s most valuable player award.”She’s my bull in the china shop,” Costalas said. “I asked her to give me 110 percent, and she gave me 140. Susie is a machine and the glue behind this team. She left everything on the ice.”While the last two seasons ended with matching outcomes, the roads to the title in 2005 and 2006 were far from mirror images. The Puckers, who leaned heavily on its first line a year ago, showed its depth in Breckenridge. Against the tournament hosts in Game 1 of round-robin action, the Puckers relied heavily on the contributions of their second line – Mindy Nagle, Sasha Schroeder and Lindsey Utter – to pull out the 5-3 win.”In the past, it’s always been the first line that dominates the scoring,” backup goalie Margo Cuttitta said Tuesday. “We shifted Lindsey from first to second this year to give us the edge. We created a second scoring line.”

Nagle scored two goals and Utter scored one in a 4-0 Game 2 win over the Denver Bandits. Puckers goaltender Ellen Winter, who had missed more than a month with fractured ribs she suffered in a snowboarding accident, delivered an inspiring effort for the full two days.Ellen Falender added two goals, and Schairer and Nagle pitched in one each in the Puckers’ 4-1 semifinal win over the University of Colorado. “She [Winter] played even though she wasn’t completely healed,” said Theriot, who joined the Puckers in 1999-2000, the year the team won its fourth title. “Ellen kept us in that final game, even when other players were hacking at her. She knew she was gonna come out and play no matter what it took.”Costalas also pointed out a change in his team’s demeanor since last season. The Puckers kept the jokes to a minimum last weekend. The children and spouses stayed at home. The team was in bed at 10 each night and focused before each game.Adding to the intensity was the chip the team had on its shoulder after receiving a less-than-rewarding tournament draw. The Puckers, the league’s top team in the regular season, found itself in round-robin play with the Breckenridge Blizzard – a team that handed the Puckers one of their two losses during the season – and the Bandits, who tied the Puckers during the regular season. Those teams had tied for fourth in the seven-team league.

“The girls were a little pissed off, and that was good,” said Costalas, who has coached the Puckers for four seasons. “There was no nonsense, and they came to play. I give these girls credit. Four games in less than two days, I couldn’t do it.”It was after the final buzzer sounded and the Puckers hoisted the Stella Cup that the usual theatrics, which have characterized close to three decades of Puckers hockey, reappeared. The stress of playing an entire season as the marked team quickly dissipated. A host of players even took the microphone at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena and sang happy birthday to their coach. Following the more-than-two-hour drive back to town, the cup also made a late-night appearance at a local bar. There’s already been talk of a three-peat.”It hasn’t been done in a long time, maybe in the late ’70s or early ’80s. It says it on the cup, and I was trying to read it [Saturday], but the words were a little blurry,” Costalas joked. “It’s great. I have 16 sisters. I have a blast with these girls. What a fun weekend.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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