Completing the dynasty: Steamboat girls U19 hockey team celebrates its seniors ahead of playoff push
Across all sports in Steamboat Springs, you may never find a bond as strong or an energy as infectious than that among the seniors on the Steamboat Stampede girls U19 hockey team.
Coming off back-to-back state championships, Steamboat continued its dominance into the 2022-23 season and is undefeated ahead of its senior night celebration at 6:45 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27, at Howelsen Ice Arena.
The four girls have played together every winter for a decade and have spent countless hours traveling, practicing and competing six days a week.
The foundation they have built for the program is something they take a lot of pride in and something they hope to see flourish after they graduate this spring.
“We want to pass down a legacy,” said team captain Margaux Shea. “We put a lot of time into making this team what it is and we don’t want that all to crumble once we leave. Building up the strength of the girls below us is very important to us.”
U19 head coach Mike Nelson says the girls hockey culture in town is amazing and attributes the vast majority of that culture to the seniors on his team: Avery Duty, Bella Story, Shea and Madi Yamashita.
Avery Duty – Defender
Picking up a hockey stick to compete for the first time at 9 years old, Duty has always brought know-how as well as good energy to the team.
Her teammates are always excited to see her both in and out of the arena, and she has become a great role model for the younger female athletes throughout Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association.
Duty is always there to keep it real with her teammates and loves to joke around, except when she has to do lunges during warmups.
“I love playing with Avery and she’s one of those people where if she’s not there, you’re going to notice immediately,” Yamashita said. “You can always tell when Avery is there and when she’s not, because she is always so bubbly.”
Bella Story – Defender
After starting her hockey career in Oak Creek, Story made a home for herself on the Steamboat ice at 8 years old.
Off the ice, Story is thought of as the “mama bear” of the team who takes care of everyone and ensures positive vibes. When she puts her skates on, a switch flips and she becomes an aggressive player who’s always looking to make a big play.
Known as ‘The Belldozer,’ Story will never shy away from a skirmish on the ice and will always stick up for her teammates in a game.
“When you see Bella going for somebody, you have full faith she is going to win that battle every time because she is a force,” Shea said. “I’m never worried when Bella is on the ice, I know she’s got it.”
Margaux Shea – Forward
Shea is not only a captain on the Steamboat team, but she’s leading the Colorado Girls Hockey League in scoring.
There might not be a more positive person on the ice than Shea, who used to apologize to opponents when hitting them, but has since become a more menacing presence in games.
All the girls on the team look up to Shea and her ability to be goofy off the ice and serious on it. Her team speeches can get anyone fired up at any time.
“She is the most positive person in the world and really builds up the team and has been captain of the team forever,” Duty said. “When she was younger, she played with the boys and was the captain of all the boys teams, too. She can lead anyone.”
Madi Yamashita – Goaltender
A brick wall in the net over the years, Yamashita has brought a fire to the team since she was just 8 years old.
She will always shoot straight and is not afraid to be honest with her teammates, which they all find extremely helpful.
Yamashita might be the funniest player to hear during games for her constant chirping and the way she interacts with her team and her opponents. She has devoted her time to hockey and has been a staple in the net all season during the undefeated run.
“Madi is probably the smartest on the team,” Story said. “She’s really creative and I remember when we were younger she used to crochet stuff. As we got older, she got a temper and it’s really funny being her (defense) because you would hear her say something or she would hit someone and you’re just like, ‘Oh, OK Madi!’”
When competing in the U12 division, the girls commonly lost games 12-0 or worse. Since then, they have worked diligently at their craft and slowly gotten to the point where they are the top team in Colorado.
These countless hours they have put into hockey do not even begin to describe what hockey has given back to them, and a lot of those experiences are thanks to the parents and families who have supported them through their hockey careers.
Though undefeated, the girls are not finished and have a strong desire to close out this chapter of their hockey lives strong with another state title.
Steamboat will be the No. 1 seed in the playoffs coming up Feb. 10-12 in Gunnison.
Win or lose, Nelson is pleased to have had the seniors on his team and cannot wait to see what they accomplish after graduation.
“They represent their families, the organization and the town so well,” Nelson said. “I have the easiest job in the world coaching these girls. They are amazing with their work ethic and everything. I’m lucky and very proud to be working with these girls.”
To reach Tom Skulski, call 970-871-4240, email tskulski@SteamboatPilot.com.
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