Aspen Leafs U19 girls hockey defends its MSGHL title, finishes season undefeated
Maybe it wasn’t “Miracle on Ice,” but it was a classic.
It featured the top two teams, including the defending champions, going head to head in the final. There was a two-goal lead, a rally by the opposition, and a late breakaway for the win and an undefeated season.
It was a dream finish for the Aspen Leafs U19 A girls hockey team, who held on to beat the Lady RoughRiders in the championship game of the Mountain States Girls Hockey League on Sunday, 3-2. The game was played at the Edge Ice Arena in Littleton.
“It was a real tight game,” Aspen coach Kirk Golden said. “The team we were matched up against in the championship is a pretty strong offensive team. But our goalie played really well. Our team played really well together and we were able to pull out the 3-2 victory.”
The Leafs were in fact the defending U19 MSGHL champs. They won a year ago under coach Beth Madsen when Katie Yocum’s offensive firepower in the final carried them to their first league title since the 2013-14 season.
This winter, it was goalie Sammie Jaworski and a standout play by Laney Martens in the final minutes that made the difference for top-seed Aspen against the No. 2 RoughRiders, who are based out of the Boulder area.
“She is one of our big reasons we were able to achieve that undefeated season. She was outstanding,” Golden said of Jaworski in net. “The other team came back and tied it, kind of in the middle of the third. Then one of our younger girls, Laney Martens, got a breakaway with about two minutes left or so.”
The Leafs led 2-0 before the RoughRiders rallied with a pair of goals in the third period to bring the game back to even. Then Martens took things into her own hands, getting the late goal that led to the Aspen win.
“The bench exploded, but we kind of had to keep our emotions in check because we still had a few more shifts to go in the game,” Golden said. “We didn’t want to let off of the gas. We had to keep going until that final buzzer.”
Aspen, which had little competition in the pool play portion of the tournament, finishes the season 26-0-1, the tie having come against the Lady RoughRiders back on Dec. 1. Aspen beat the RoughRiders 2-0 a day later in their only other meeting of the regular season.
“No, I wasn’t thinking about that at all,” Golden said of the team’s undefeated season. “I knew we had a good team, but our philosophy all year was take the next game as it comes. We were never worried about the final product, but we just took care of business each game, night in and night out.”
The Leafs U19 team will lose some good talent — Yocum, Juna Rettig, Kaelin Harris, Hannah Feder and Olivia Carr all are seniors — but the amount of talent returning has Golden already talking about that third straight MSGHL crown.
“We are losing five seniors, but we have some good young girls in the program that played on the U15 team that will hopefully be able to fill some shoes,” Golden said. “We’ll have some big shoes to fill, but we should have a great chance at a three-peat because we have a lot of our good players coming back.”
Aspen’s U15 girls hockey team finished the MSGHL tournament as the state runner-ups over the weekend. The Leafs, seeded No. 2, lost to No. 1 seed New Mexico in the final. They finished the season with an 18-6-5 overall record.
Aspen’s U12 girls team finished third in the MSGHL, on par with its No. 3 seed. The Leafs finished the season with a 13-6-1 overall record. Colorado Springs won the U12 title, beating Salt Lake City in the final.
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Those opting for the spring, like Aspen and Basalt, will begin football practice Feb. 25 and start playing games March 11.