At the end of the 2017-18 season the Anchorage High School girls hockey team was informed that the program was going to be discontinued.
But thanks to the passion of the members of the team and the Anchorage Hockey Association, the Anchorage girls hockey team lives on. The team has paid its own way this season. That hard work resulted in Anchorage qualifying for the Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls High School National Championships for the first time.
About three weeks before the start of this season, things changed. The AHA stepped in and made an agreement with the school district. The girls high school team would continue on. But the association and team would have to fund the team on their own. The agreement meant Anchorage got to continue playing.
In November 2018, the team began its push to get organized and ready for the chance to qualify for nationals. The team accomplished that goal. Gross believed this was a chance for the girls to see the positives of high school sports.
“I love high school sports and wanted to make playing for your school cool and wanted the players to feel a part of their school,” Gross said. “I am big on memories and creating opportunities and I hope this is something they appreciate when they get older.”
Gross said that for many girls, this is a rare chance for them to travel to play in a tournament. For the older players, it might be their only chance.
“They (the team) are very excited and think it’s pretty cool,” Gross said. “Any time you can fly on a plane with a group of friends to a tournament is a pretty neat experience.”
The team will experience as many of Northeast Ohio offerings as they can during their stay and early in the trip the team has visited the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and will tour the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
On the ice, knowing that teams in the Girls Division are arriving from Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, Texas and Ohio, Gross isn’t exactly sure of what to expect.
“I don’t know what the competition is like,” Gross said. “We haven’t seen anybody before. I am hoping we get to the semi-finals.”
The Anchorage roster is a young team. Seven freshmen fill the roster along with a pair of sophomores and four upperclassmen. Included among the top regular-season performers for Anchorage this season are Amber Steinhilpert, Kira Hewlett and Briana Paxson.
“(Amber) was one of our top scorers in the league this season and believed it was very important to play for her school,” Gross said.
As the team takes the ice and competes for a USA Hockey National Championship, Gross has an even larger and more community serving desired outcome for his program. With the AHA already committed to funding next year’s team, this tournament is a small part of the journey to grow womens and girls hockey in Alaska.
“My goal, for the most part, is to gain exposure for high school girls hockey in Alaska and get more girls to play,” Gross said. “We’re all glad we’re here and I just hope it grows our sport.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.