GILBERT, Ariz. — The Aspen Leafs won the 2017 USA Hockey Girls Tier II 14U Rocky Mountain District Tournament on Sunday afternoon in Gilbert, Arizona, but they had to get past a familiar opponent to do it.
The Leafs defeated the Colorado Lady Roughriders, 5-2, an opponent they had faced several times earlier this season and one they had some trouble with, even as recently as Friday when the Leafs dropped a 3-2 decision on the opening night of the tournament. But after beating them just once over the course of the long season, their second win came at the most important time.
It meant a trip to Troy, Michigan, for the 2017 USA Hockey Girls Tier II National Championships. Getting there by beating a rival made it even sweeter.
“It’s always been close between us,” said Leafs head coach Keith Howe. “They’ve got a great team, a great goaltender, and it was just a matter of us figuring out their goaltender today and being diligent about shooting, getting shots to the net and getting good shots.”
Those shots to the net came early and often for the Leafs as they got goals off the sticks of Sasha Bruckner and Lillian Cassidy to help propel them to a 2-0 lead heading into the second period.
After the game, Ava Gosnell talked about how it felt a little odd to have to have an early lead against a team they had a little bit of trouble with during the season.
“It was really intimidating and nerve-wracking because we scored the first goal and we wanted to keep up with that,” said Gosnell, who recorded three points (2G, 1A) in the championship contest and finished the tournament with six points (3G, 3A) in four games.
The rival Roughriders responded with a goal early in the second period and the game remained tight until late in the period when Gosnell tallied what would be the eventual game-winner off assists from Lilli Armstrong and Charlotte Howie.
While Gosnell and her teammates provided the offense, goaltender Ashlyn Lewis shut the door at the other end of the ice. She stopped 21 of 23 Roughriders shots in the victory, including some important saves in the third period to keep her team’s lead secure.
“We haven’t beat them in a while, so we were hungry to beat them again. We just tried our best,” said Lewis, who allowed no more than two goals in each of her three appearances during the tournament.
Howe said playing another Colorado team, a team they were so familiar with and one that has almost become a rival to them, added an extra bit of motivation for his team going into Sunday’s final.
“In our league, there’s rivals because a lot of the girls played together on Team Colorado and that’s what makes it interesting and that’s why you play sports, because of the rivalry and it’s always good competition,” Howe said. “It’s good to see hockey in Colorado getting better each year.”
Despite helping punch her team’s ticket to Nationals just moments before, Lewis wasted no time in looking forward to what lies ahead for her and her teammates.
“I’m really excited,” said Lewis. “We’re going to need a bunch of practice because we don’t know what kind of team we’ll be playing, but we want to go in ready to win.”
Howe added to his goaltender’s sentiment of excitement, saying the national tournament is going to be an extraordinary opportunity for his team.
“We know the Nationals are going to be a really tough competition, but we’ve worked hard to get there and I’m just excited for the girls because it’s going to be a phenomenal experience,” said Howe.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
|Youth Tier I (14U)||Scottsdale, Arizona||Arizona Amateur Hockey||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier I (15-year-olds only)||Scottsdale, Arizona||Arizona Amateur Hockey||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier I (16U, 18U)||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania||Pittsburgh Penguins Elite||April 6-10, 2017|
|Girls Tier I||Rochester/Macomb, Michigan||HoneyBaked Hockey Club||April 6-10, 2017|
|Women's A, B, C||Rochester/Macomb, Michigan||HoneyBaked Hockey Club||April 6-9, 2017|
|High School||Cleveland, Ohio||Cleveland Suburban Hockey||March 22-26, 2017|
|Girls Tier II||Troy, Michigan||Troy Youth Hockey Association||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier II (14U)||Coral Springs, Florida||Florida Panthers Ice Den||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier II (16U)||Frisco, Texas||Texas Amateur Hockey||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier II (18U)||Lansing, Michigan||Lansing Hockey Club||April 6-10, 2017|
|Sled||San Jose, California||Sharks Ice||April 6-9, 2017|
|Adult Rec Men's||Wesley Chapel, Florida||Florida Hospital Center Ice||April 20-23, 2017|
|Adult Rec Women's||Ellenton, Florida||Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex||April 27-30, 2017|