Aspen Junior Hockey girls skate into new era
The Aspen Times
Aspen Junior Hockey — the girls teams — skated into a new era this season.
According to Shaun Hathaway, the Aspen Junor Hockey girls broke new ice at all levels.
The U14 AA Aspen girls concluded their inaugural season as the state runner-up last weekend.
“This season a dedicated group of Aspen girls took a plunge into the water and started swimming,” Hathaway said “The journey culminated with a CAHA state runner-up (finish) at the Tier-2 championship series.”
The team started after tryouts in October, one of only two U14 Tier teams in the state of Colorado.
By late October, they competed as a sanctioned AA team, the highest level of U14 girls hockey in the Rocky Mountain District.
The other Colorado team, the Lady Roughriders, draws from the Denver metro area.
The teams battled for Colorado supremacy with the Lady Roughriders winning 3-1 in the final.
“It was a defining moment for Aspen Junior Hockey,” Hathaway said. “Leaving everything on the ice, the team came together with trust and determination. After the championship series, they left Denver with the respect of CAHA, the respect of their opponents and the motivation to return next year to win a state title.”
Hathaway said the team took some lumps playing higher-level competition. But collectively, the girls improved immensely, he said.
“Their dedication and trust in the program coupled with the leadership of head coach Emily Knutson made them better hockey players and a stronger team,” Hathaway said.
Other Aspen Junior Hockey girls teams closed their seasons last weekend at their respective state tournaments.
The Aspen U12 girls finished second at state.
The Aspen U14 and U19 girls finished third in their state tournaments.
All three teams had recorded third-place finishes in the regular season.
For the U12s, competition began Friday with the finals Sunday at the Edge Ice Arena in southwest Denver. At the end of the weekend, the 12U team hoisted the state runner-up banner.
The Aspen Leafs started the tournament shocking the field with a 1-1 tie against powerhouse Colorado Select. The Select is a girls-only USA Hockey national model.
Kristen Spang scored in the first period to give Aspen the early lead.
A solid defense and a spectacular performance by goaltender Samantha Jaworski (15 saves) kept Aspen ahead until the Select scored the eventual game-tying goal with only five minutes left in the contest.
In Game 2, Lily Cassidy, Tesa Conrardy and Mia Seltzer scored goals in a 3-1 Aspen victory over Summit.
In Game 3, the Aspen offense exploded for a 6-3 win over Steamboat.
Hayley Heinecken scored two goals, and Ella Scott, Isabela Castillo, Amanda Simeone, and Cassidy each tallied one in the victory.
In their next game, the Leafs were forced to come from behind to keep their playoff run alive against No. 2-seed New Mexico.
Even though the Leafs outshot the Mustangs 27-14, they needed three goals in the third period to erase a 4-1 deficit.
Aspen team captain Heinecken lifted the Leafs by recording a hat trick.
With one point earned from the 4-4 tie, the Leafs advanced to the championship game to once again face off against the top-seeded Colorado Select.
After a scoreless first period, the Select took advantage of three second-period goals for the win.
Third-seed Aspen started the playoff tournament with a 5-2 win over New Mexico in the U19s.
With balanced offensive production from Olivia Bond (2 goals), Jessica Tyler, Dara Schenck and Ali McNichol, the Leafs rolled.
In the second game against No. 2-seed Summit, the Leafs played one of their best games of the season.
Aspen outshot a strong Summit team by a staggering 39-14 margin.
Kelsey Fitzgerald and captain Diane Godfrey finally got the Leafs on the scoreboard with goals in the second period for a 2-0 lead.
However, two bad bounces and a solid Summit goaltender down the stretch forced the Leafs to settle with a disappointing 2-2 tie.
In Game 3, the Leafs outshot Colorado Springs 42-20 en route to a 2-1 win on goals from Emma Harvey and Godfrey.
Goaltender Sonya Benson stopped three breakaways in the second and third periods to lift the team to victory.
Game 4 was a must-win for Aspen to advance against a veteran West Elk squad.
Once again, Aspen finished with the shot advantage (20-14), but two early first-period West Elk goals were too much to overcome in a tightly played 4-2 loss for Aspen. With a 2-1-1 record (identical to Summit), the tournament tie-breaking rule came into play, and based on goal differential, Aspen’s season was over.
Godfrey, who was named to the MSGHL All-League Team, led the Leafs in scoring with 6 points (3 goals, 3 assists).
The U14 Aspen Leafs started the weekend with a challenge, facing off first against top-seed West Elk.
Goaltender Julia Krys stopped 27 shots, including a second-period barrage.
But the Aspen offense was unable to find the back of the net, and an early first-period goal by West Elk was enough to defeat the Leafs 1-0.
In Game 2, Aspen controlled the flow of play for most of the game against Steamboat, skating to a 3-0 victory.
Lily Cassidy, Sophia Jacober, and Kristen Spang scored goals, and Krys was again perfect in net recording her third shutout of the season.
In Game 3, Aspen toppled Summit 3-2 on goals from Claire Mitchell, Hayley Heinecken and Lily Cassidy.
Goaltender Lexi Ferlisi was solid between the pipes, making 17 saves.
In the final pool-play game, the Leafs needed a win to stay alive in the tournament and secure a chance to defend their championship title from last season.
However, instead of advancing, the Leafs were once again unable to get their offense going, and ultimately the team suffered a 2-1 loss to Vail, finishing third at state.
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