Aspen girls hockey claims back-to-back state titles |

Aspen girls hockey claims back-to-back state titles

The wonderkind girls hockey teams from Aspen, both the under-15s and under-19s, captured their second-straight state championships in Fort Collins last weekend.

The titles cap off another stellar season for the Aspen girls, in which both girls teams also won the Vail Sportsmanship Tournament and the Steamboat Winter Carnival Tournament. And the U-19 team did it with seven players who also play with the U-15 team.

“It’s amazing because without the younger girls stepping up, the U-19 team wouldn’t exist,” said Dan Johns, coach of the U-15 team along with Paul D’Amato. “And that’s the cool thing – they’re killing all these top teams with a bunch of 14-year-olds.”

Led by goalie Jacqueline Pearlstone and captain Elizabeth Severy – the only girl on Aspen High’s state playoff final-four team – the Aspen under-19 team allowed just one goal en route to their second-straight state title.

“We told the girls at the beginning of the season to set the standard for girls hockey in Colorado,” said Peter Whitmore, who coaches the Aspen U-19 team along with Doug Coombe and Taka Yoshiro. “They did that with good sportsmanship, fine passing skills and a good team image as a representative of Aspen.”

The Aspen U-19s opened the state tournament against Laramie on Friday, Feb. 22. Pearlstone recorded a shutout in the 4-0 Aspen victory. Severy scored an unassisted goal in the first period, before Dylan Braun and Desiree Pynnonen opened the flood gates with goals in the second period. Severy and Kaitlin Kunkler assisted on the goals.

In the third period, Alia Strong added an insurance goal, assisted by Lauren Johns. Aspen outshot Laramie 31 to 5, with Pearlstone stopping all comers.

In the second game against Vail on Saturday, Aspen allowed its only goal of the tournament in a 5-1 win. After a scoreless first period, Severy opened the offensive attack with a goal in the second, assisted by Carly Magill. Magill then twined a goal of her own, assisted by Victoria Work, then Work answered with another goal, assisted by Kunkler, to give Aspen a 3-0 lead entering the third period.

Severy added the fourth goal in the third period, before the Pynnonen sisters, Desiree and Ashley, hooked up for Aspen’s fifth goal. Ashley scored, assisted by Desiree.

In the finals on Sunday morning against the Colorado Select team, Carley Magill opened the scoring for Aspen in the second period with a goal, assisted by Madeline D’Amato. Severy added the second goal, assisted by Reilly Gallagher, as Aspen entered the final period with a 2-0 lead. Gallagher sealed the victory, and the state title, with a goal in the third period, assisted by D’Amato.

“Pearlstone was very solid with two shutouts and a goals against average of .33,” said Whitmore. “And Liz Severy, our team captain, provided great leadership with her experience playing Tier 1 hockey, boys high school hockey and attending the USA Hockey development camp in Lake Placid.

“And our special teams, specifically the power play, was outstanding,” Whitmore continued. “Coach Coombe worked all winter with the team practicing the power play and we scored a key goal that way in the championship game.

“The coaches emphasis all year was the passing game along with making good decisions every play. The training paid off as we dominated both offensively and on defense,” Whitmore continued.

In the under-15 girls state tournament, also in Fort Collins, Aspen opened play on Friday against arch-rival Vail. Scoring began with an unassisted goal by Lauren “Lolli” Johns. Reilly Gallagher scored next, assisted by Johns.

Katrina DeVore scored the game-winner with a strong shot from the point through a crowd in front of the net. Aspen outshot Vail 26 to 12.

In Aspen’s second game on Saturday vs. DU, rookie goalie Teagan Walters shutout the Pioneers and center Madeline D’Amato scored a hat trick with assists from Maria Piessis, Gallagher and Carley Magill. Victoria Work scored Aspen’s final goal of the game on a shot from the left point. Again, Aspen outshot DU 20 to 12.

In Sunday’s championship game, Aspen faced Summit.

“Again, we played tough defensively, allowing only one goal and out-shooting the Summit team 23 to 12,” said coach Johns.

Gallagher scored an unassisted goal for Aspen, and Lolli Johns twined the game-winner, assisted by Gallagher.

“Aspen’s under-15 team faced a lot of adversity this year, as competition is much tougher from all the team we played,” said Johns. “We also played with a rookie goaltender, who played with a lot of heart and had surprising success. The entire team stepped up and played very tough defensively … and our speedy forwards almost always outshot our opponents two to one.

“We just happen to have a great bunch of hockey players who are all passionate about hockey and winning,” Johns continued. “It certainly makes it a lot of fun to be associated with girls who are so committed to playing hockey well and having fun with it.”

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