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Aspen girls take home ice today

After a dominating display earned them the championship title at the Vail Sportsmanship Tournament last weekend, the under-19 Aspen girls hockey team has high expectations heading into the 10th annual Fall Face-Off in Aspen, which begins today.

Aspen opens against Colorado Springs tonight at 9 p.m., at the Aspen Recreation Center rink. They’ll play two games Saturday, and one Sunday morning as they gun for another spot in the finals, slated for Sunday at 12:15 p.m.

“We better be in it,” said Wily Manering, who coaches the Aspen U-19s along with Peter Whitmore, Dan Johns and John “Frenchie” French.



If Aspen continues to play the kind of hockey it’s been known for recently ” including three consecutive U-19 state championships ” the finals should be well within their reach.

Aspen is stacked across the ice with fast, explosive forwards, a strong goalie in Teagan Walter (who recorded three shutouts in the Vail tournament) and a pair of defensive lines that Manering believes may be the best in the state.




If there’s a “better four-girl unit, show me one,” Manering said. “And I’m not being an exuberant coach here.”

That four-girl unit is comprised of Aspen High sophomores Katrina DeVore and Carly Magill, and seniors Alia Strong and Victoria Work.

Manering said Work is having a breakout season.

“This girl has improved so much from last year,” Manering said. “She’s been weight training all summer, she’s public skated every day over the past year, and you can see it in the results, the way she skates, [and] her shot.

“She had a beautiful end-to-end rush and scored [in Vail], which just wouldn’t have happened last year.”

The offense is a two-headed monster, with a duo of lines customized for different situations. The line of Dylan Braun, Reilly Gallagher and Maddy D’Amato is a scoring machine, leading the club in goals the past couple seasons.

Caitlin Dunn, Lauren Johns, Cydney Prikryl and Ashley Pynnonen are mainstays of the back-checking line. They play a huge role, Manering said, when Aspen is in the lead and playing defensive hockey.

“They do such a job of back-checking, they have a better plus/minus than the first line,” Manering said. “In the sport of hockey, that checking line is everything ” a back-checker in the NHL makes $1 million a season ” we count on them big.”

Also stepping up big lately is Christy Severy, who’s better known for her cross-country running prowess.

“Christy Severy has been playing fantastic hockey,” Manering said.

While Aspen will be without Maddy D’Amato, who has a prior commitment, they will pick up Maggie Melbert, who’s been playing with the Aspen boys Bantam team.

“We’re lucky to have her on our squad this weekend,” Manering said. “That will be the only difference from the Vail Tournament.”

But with the depth of talent on the squad, it seems Aspen could weather any storm. Out of the 15 girl roster, Manering believes nine are on their way to playing competitive college hockey. Over 20 girls from the past three year’s teams are playing in college right now, he said.

As for the remainder of the roster, Manering said the only thing holding them back is a lack of experience.

“When we get done with them, if they so choose, they will play college hockey,” he said.

So what makes Aspen so good?

“Girls hockey in this state has improved 100 percent in the past six years,” Manering said. “They shoot, skate and make moves like the boys.”

Aspen faces Colorado Springs at the ARC at 9 p.m. tonight, followed by Denver University and New Mexico at 8:30 and 11:45 a.m., respectively, on Saturday. Aspen finishes pool play against Steamboat at 7:15 a.m. Sunday. The championship is Sunday at 12:15 p.m.

Aspen’s under-12 and under-15 girls teams are also playing in this weekend’s tourney, along with the 8-and-under Mites.


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