Aspen Junior Hockey’s 16U AA girls team back at nationals
A trip to nationals is becoming an annual occurrence for the girls of Aspen Junior Hockey.
Beginning Thursday morning, Aspen’s 16U AA team will compete in the 2019 USA Hockey National Championships, held in Amherst, New York, near Buffalo. This team also made nationals last winter, and many of those same girls also played on the 14U AA team that qualified through to nationals two winters ago.
For this year’s team — coached by Keith Howie — to make the return trip, it again had to win the Rocky Mountain District championship, which it did last month. The Leafs played the Lady Roughriders in the district final, winning 3-0 for their second straight district title.
The Aspen Leafs 19U AA girls hockey team took second in its district tournament, losing to the Idaho Vipers in the final and coming just short of a trip to nationals.
This year’s 16U AA team is hoping to become the first Leafs team to make it out of pool play. They had an overtime win and two losses a year ago, finishing fourth with two points in their division. The Shoreline Sharks beat the Vermont Shamrocks in the 2018 championship game.
They open the 16-team tournament early Thursday morning against the Wisconsin Selects, the No. 2 seed. Friday afternoon, Aspen will face the No. 6 seed Vermont Shamrocks and on Saturday morning will face the No. 10 seed Steel City Selects.
Aspen will need to finish in the top two in its four-team pool to advance to bracket play, which gets underway Sunday. The championship game is scheduled for Monday morning.
Live scoring and updated standings can be found through the USA Hockey website.
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Keegan Swirbul was set to carry on with his nomadic career this summer with Ljubljana Gusto Santic, a professional cycling team based out of Slovenia