Several years ago, the Colorado Springs Tigers girls’ program was at a crossroads.
“When I got here three years ago, the hockey director was going to go one way or another with the program,” coach Richard Furia said.
Either it would continue as a non-competitive rec program, or it would ramp up its status in an effort to become and elite program.
The Tigers went with option No. 2, and it’s safe to say that paid off. Earlier this month, the Under-19 Tiger Girls Elite Prep team won the Rocky Mountain District championship in Arvada, Colo., and will head to the USA Hockey National Championships. The Tier II national championships will take place March 28-April 1 in Texas.
“I think this year is definitely our year, for sure,” Furia said. “I think we have a serious shot at a national championship.”
In a short period of time, the Tigers have certainly proven capable of playing at a championship level.
Before becoming coach of the Tigers, Furia remembers coaching against them and said, “It was always an easy game.”
During his first season with the program, Furia said the girls’ program was basically a recreational team. They got to districts, but did so with a group he said “overachieved.”
Since then, the program has grown immensely.
“I think they wanted somebody to come in and make it a little more competitive and be a little more enthusiastic,” Furia said. “I don’t know if they knew what they were getting, honestly, when they brought me in. I’m a little more competitive than what they thought I might have been. So, it’s growing very quickly as far as how competitive we are.”
Furia, who has an extensive background coaching in both ice and inline hockey, has converted several of his former inline players to the ice game. He said several of his Tigers players have gone on to earn college scholarships already and that the program is gaining a solid reputation around the region.
Registered as a Tier II team, the Tigers play in several Tier I tournaments each year and hold their own. Furia said the hope is that they will become a rare Tier I team in the district. To do that, they need approval from the Colorado Amateur Hockey Association.
For now, the Tigers are enjoying their success, particularly at the recent district tournament.
In their first game, the Tigers took on the Lady Coyotes from Arizona and found themselves in a 3-1 hole late in the third period. That’s when Jenna Kosley scored a goal to cut the deficit. Then Furia pulled his goalie and, with nine seconds left, Lanie Matsumoto scored the tying goal, sending it into overtime.
“We went into overtime and Ashley [Krajcovic] punched in an overtime goal, so we were able to steal that game,” Furia said.
It was the second goal of the game for Krajcovic, who had five during the tournament. In their next game, the Tigers routed the Rocky Mountain Lynx 4-0 as Kosley had a hat trick. In fact, she scored all three of her goals in a span of 5 minutes, 18 seconds during the second period.
In Game 3, despite out-shooting the Colorado Select, the Tigers lost 3-1. They got revenge, however, in the finals, defeating the Select 3-0.
“First time … we gave them the middle of the ice too much,” Furia said. “In the final game, we changed our fore-checking game plan quite a bit and the Selects found themselves not knowing what to do with that. We took away the entire middle of the ice. I don’t think they know what happened.”
Getting stellar performances from Kosley, Krajcovic, Sidney Harris and goalie Amanda Nold (two shutouts in four games), the Tigers gained a measure of confidence going into nationals.
“When we get to Texas, I think we have a fairly good shot, I believe,” Furia said. “I think we have one of the smartest teams, probably one of the fastest teams.
“If we stick to our game plan, we have a team that we can set up an offensive trap and create turnovers very quickly and we jump on those turnovers and we have a lot of speed. I think if we have our best games, I think we could win it all.”
That’s an amazing change from where the program was just a few short years ago.
“It’s been a real good ride ever since,” Furia said. “We have a [heck] of a group.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Tag(s): 19 & Under