Pierre Turgeon was a winner as a player.
He enjoyed a 19-year career in the National Hockey League after being the No. 1 overall pick of the 1987 draft. Turgeon played for six teams and was a scoring marching, amassing a staggering 1,327 points.
Turgeon can now say he’s a winner as a coach, too.
Turgeon, who retired from the NHL in 2007, is the coach of the Colorado Select 16-and-Under team that won the Rocky Mountain District Tier I girls’ hockey championship on March 1. By taking the title, Colorado Select advances to the USA Hockey National Championships.
“It’s fun to see from the beginning of the year up until now what [the players] have learned and how much they’re improving,” said Turgeon, whose daughter Valerie plays on the team. “Just being a part of it and giving back to hockey, I’ve been grateful to do something that I love for many years.”
Colorado Select was one of just two teams — the other being the Dallas Stars Elite — playing in the Rocky Mountain District Tier I 16U tournament in Littleton, Colo.
The two teams didn’t face off at all during the regular season, so the teams didn’t know what to expect heading into the tournament.
In the opening game Feb. 28, Colorado peppered Dallas goalie Peri Donaldson with 27 shots in regulation but couldn’t find the back of the net. Colorado’s Julia Johnson was just as good between the pipes, though, stopping every shot that came her direction. With the game still scoreless in overtime, Colorado fired eight shots in the first 2 minutes, 36 seconds, before finally lighting the lamp. Madison Davis fed Natasha Steinle, who made no mistake about the goal.
“It was a tight game all the way through,” Turgeon said. “We had some shots, and we just couldn’t finish. Their goalie was good; she was seeing the puck.”
The victory gave Colorado the upper hand the next day in the championship game.
“Imagine that, if you go down, you’re one game down and that’s a different approach,” Turgeon said. “You get a lot of confidence from an overtime winner.”
Turgeon wanted his girls to take charge right away and sink any hope that Dallas had. Already trailing 1-0 in the series, Dallas had to take some chances to earn a victory.
“They might cheat a little bit more, and then it creates 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s,” Turgeon said. “You’ve got no choice, and you’ve got to get some goals back somehow.”
With the game deadlocked at 1-1 midway through the first period, Colorado seized control. Nicole McKernan broke the tie just 13 seconds after Dallas scored. After a goal in the second period made it 3-1, Colorado — which had 45 shots on net — erupted for five third-period goals in a span of 11:37 en route to an 8-1 victory.
During Turgeon’s pregame pep talk to his players, he emphasized the need to crash the net to create opportunities.
“We took shots, but we were there for the rebound,” Turgeon said. “A lot of times we didn’t score on the first [shot], but we scored on maybe the second or third one.”
McKernan, Steinle and Valerie Turgeon each scored two goals apiece. Steinle and Holly Billett both tallied three-point games. Hannah Markel had 10 saves in net for Colorado, whose defense shined all weekend.
“It’s just work, we don’t have anything fancy,” said Turgeon about his team’s defense. “We try to take away time in space and try to make it hard on the offense to get shots on net. We’ve been doing that well this year.”
Colorado Select is now preparing to compete at the USA Hockey National Championships April 2-6 in Marlborough, Mass. Turgeon knows his team will face many challenges against some great teams.
“I think the main thing is just to go out there and have the attitude, ‘I’m going to work hard, I’m going to compete,’” Turgeon said. “We have a good feeling that the teams that we’re going to play, they’re going to be hard. Assabet Valley is probably the best team.”
Assabet Valley — which is the host team for nationals — placed runner-up last season as Shattuck-St. Mary’s of Minnesota won the national title.
The girls on Colorado Select are excited for the chance to play at nationals.
“We’re very proud of the girls for going to nationals, and we’re going to take that as an experience and have fun at the same time and work hard,” Turgeon said. “I’m looking forward to going there.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.