Rack this one up to a clean sweep for Colorado.
Six Rocky Mountain District girls’ hockey teams will compete at the USA Hockey National Championships this year, and all six hail from Colorado.
In Tier I, Colorado Select won both the 19-and-Under and 16U titles March 1 at the Edge Ice Arena in Littleton, Colo. The next weekend in Tier II, Colorado Springs Prep Elite was crowned at 19U and the Rocky Mountain Lady RoughRiders took the 14U championship. The district will also be sending the Colorado Select Tier I 14U and Tier II 16U teams to nationals even though there weren’t postseason tournaments for either age group.
“Colorado is pretty strong,” Lady RoughRiders President/14UAA assistant coach Calvin Abila said. “Girls hockey has exploded in Colorado recently, and it’s been great.”
Of the eight teams that competed in four divisions in the district tournament, five were from Colorado.
“I’m going to say that from the Midwest to the West Coast, leaving out the upper-Midwest, girls’ hockey here in Colorado has been a growing hotbed for a long time,” said Rich Furia, coach for the Colorado Spring Prep Elite 19UAA team. “There are a lot of different organizations popping up that are competitive.”
Madison Walker doesn’t play like a freshman.
The forward netted four goals and added three assists to help the Colorado Spring Prep Elite team win all four of its games to win the Tier II 19U district title.
“Madison is a girl who definitely knows how to finish,” Furia said. “She’s been at the national camp and this is a kid that, in my opinion, is going to be a Division I player.”
Furia believes Walker is the complete package. She sees the ice well, knows when to be on and when to be off the puck, is fast, has strong hands and has a deadly shot.
Colorado Springs won three one-goal games and Walker — who left the Colorado Select in December to play for Colorado Springs — tallied the winner in two of the contests. She had two goals and an assist in victories over the Utah Lady Grizzles (3-2 in overtime) and the Arizona Lady Coyotes (7-0).
“Winning those close games I think comes from having to dig down when we have to play AAA teams all season,” Furia said. “What this team does is very resilient.”
The biggest one-goal win was in the championship game against Colorado Select. Colorado Springs led 1-0 with about 3:30 left in the third period when Colorado Select tied it to send it to overtime. In the extra session, Alyssa Manny scored the game winner to send Colorado Springs to nationals.
Colorado Springs has a storied history at nationals, finishing runner-up two years ago and losing in the semifinals last season, so the big stage is nothing new. However, after losing 13 seniors last year, Furia didn’t know if the team would make a return trip to nationals. The squad returned only four players and had to add 12 new skaters.
“This year we’re a mix,” Furia said. “We’ve got a lot of sophomores. … This year we kind of got our butts kicked because we’re young.”
Colorado Springs Prep Elite played an aggressive schedule all season that included mostly Tier I teams, so it should be well prepared for the Tier II nationals.
First season success
It has been a memorable first season for the Rocky Mountain Lady RoughRiders 14U team. The Lady RoughRiders won just about every tournament they competed in, and that can now include the Rocky Mountain District Tier II tournament.
The team — which is affiliated with the United States Hockey League’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders — downed Colorado Select twice at districts to punch its ticket to nationals.
“That was our ultimate goal to get to nationals,” Abila said.
Abila figures the Lady RoughRiders played Colorado Select about 12 times during the regular season and the RoughRiders won all but a couple games.
Coach Jean Cote’s team downed Colorado Select 5-4 in overtime and 6-1. Now it’s on to nationals for the Lady RoughRiders.
“We expect to compete,” Abila said. “I can’t say we expect to win, but we definitely want to compete there. … The kids are excited.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Girls Tier I
14U: Colorado Select (no tournament)
16U: Colorado Select
19U: Colorado Select
Girls Tier II
14U: Rocky Mountain Lady RoughRiders
16U: Colorado Select (no tournament)
19U: Colorado Spring Prep Elite