Aspen U-19s roll toward state tourney
After finishing their regular-season schedule with a perfect 12-0 record, the Aspen under-19 girls hockey team traveled to Steamboat Springs last weekend to compete in the Girls Winter Carnival Tournament.
True to form, the Aspen U-19s won four consecutive games, including a tough game against a feisty team from Michigan, to come away with the tourney championship. To date, the only game the U-19s have lost this season remains a nonleague game against Denver University back in October during the annual Fall Face-Off Tournament in Aspen.
Playing with just 10 skaters in Steamboat, the U-19s made do with the strong play of defensemen Alia Strong, Victoria Work, Katrina DeVore and Carly Magill, and forward lines of Dylan Braun, Maddy D’Amato and Reilly Gallagher, and Lolli Johns, Christy Severy and Caitlin Dunn. Second-year goalie Teagan Walter posted three shutouts and only allowed one goal in four games.
The U-19s opened the tourney with the late-night game Friday, taking the ice against Vail at 11 p.m. After a slow start, Aspen scored twice in the second period. D’Amato scored unassisted and Johns netted the second, assisted by Dunn. In the third, Aspen boosted its advantage to 4-0 on goals from Braun, assisted by DeVore, and Severy, assisted by Johns and Dunn. Aspen outshot Vail 31-7 in the win.
In Aspen’s second game, Saturday morning against Summit, Aspen fell behind early 1-0. Then Magill answered with a blast from the point to tie it up, 1 all. Johns got the game-winner with a hard shot, after Strong set her up with a nice pass from behind the Summit goal. D’Amato padded the lead with an unassisted goal and Johns added another, assisted by Dunn and Severy, to seal the 4-1 win. The shots-on-goal tally favored Aspen 26-9.
Facing host Steamboat in their third game, the U-19s rang up a 5-0 win, outshooting the Braves 30-5. Severy, Gallagher, Braun (2) and a Steamboat “own-goal,” forced by Johns, Severy and Dunn, accounted for the Aspen scoring.
Though Vail beat Michigan 1-0 on Saturday night, Vail played with a borrowed goalie and Michigan protested ” setting up the championship game between Aspen and Michigan. Michigan, a Tier 1 U-14 team that won their state championship last year, provided Aspen with a hard-skating opponent like none other the Aspen girls had seen this season.
Still, Michigan proved no match for Aspen’s passing game as Aspen outshot Michigan 15-5 and Gallagher netted the game-winner.
Asked about the play of the Aspen U-19s this season, coach Wily Manering said, “Pete [Whitmore] and I have coached girls teams up to the Tier 1 level, and this group is the best local team we’ve ever had. This team plays outstanding team defense ” and it comes from every single player. And we’re getting scoring production from every player. We really have no weak spots.
“There is not a team in this league that can skate with us or defend against our passing game,” Manering continued.
“We won this tournament outshooting these teams 102 to 26! We allowed just one goal against in four games! I actually feel sorry for the teams that have to face us in the state championship!”
The Aspen U-19s have claimed three consecutive state titles, and they’ll be gunning for an unprecedented fourth straight March 5-7 in Denver at the 2004 state tourney. In the meantime, the Aspen U-19s plan to play a few games against local boys teams and the Aspen Mother Puckers.
“I actually feel sorry for the teams that have to face us in the state championship!”
Let’s make some skiing predictions. I made my X Games snowboarding predictions a day earlier and remain only mildly lukewarm in terms of confidence, but maybe I’ll feel better about the skiers.