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Girls in hockey heaven

U-12 team gets first win

Melinda Mawdsley

Screaming in pitches words couldn’t accurately describe, the girls of Steamboat Springs’ U-12 team rushed to hug and tackle any teammate they could find.

Steamboat had just beaten Aspen, 2-0, to notch its first win as a team, and the girls had to celebrate.

“This is the youngest girls team we have,” coach Dave Hartley said. “Some couldn’t even skate when we started back in October.”

Saturday, the team made up of girls ages 9 to 12, played their best game ever, Heidi Cordell, 12, said, and they couldn’t contain their emotions. Hartley, whose daughter Maura is on the team, said he is enjoying his time with this group of girls.

“They soak it up,” he said. “They are hungry to learn. They are gelling as a team.”

Steamboat and Aspen skated to a 0-0 tie at the end of the first period thanks to several good saves by Steamboat goalie Rashelle Stetman and Aspen goalie Marisa Dreher. Although the speed of the game obviously is not on par with that of the older girls, the U-12 players’ knowledge of hockey is comparable. Both teams did an excellent job centering passes, hitting teammates with the puck in transition and clearing the zone when possible.

Steamboat’s Katelin Verploeg, who also played with Steamboat’s U-14 team this weekend, scored the game’s first goal with 3 minutes, 58 seconds left in the second period. Easily one of the smallest players on the ice Saturday, Verploeg, 11, gathered the puck in at the right of her net and skated from one end to the other to score.

She lives with three brothers, so sometimes she just has to take control.

“I got the puck and started skating around people and went right for the goal,” Verploeg said. “I didn’t think it was going to go in because I shot it down low.”

Cordell added an insurance goal for Steamboat when she scored with 8:11 left in the third period, after firing a shot just inside the Steamboat offensive zone.

“(An Aspen defender) came in and kind of tripped me,” Cordell said. “I just hit it, and the goalie went down, but didn’t go down all the way.”

Stetman and Steamboat’s defense preserved the shutout win in the closing eight minutes of Saturday’s game. Stetman, who made 11 saves, was given the MVP award for notching her first win and shutout at the same time.

Stetman, 12, said the defense played well in front of her.

“They stayed in their spaces and were on the other team’s players a lot,” she said.

The season is winding down for Steamboat’s youngest girls team, but it’s clear the team, which has players in elementary and middle schools, has picked up the basics of hockey in a relatively short amount of time, including the most important one.

“It’s all about cheers and having fun with this team,” Hartley said. “Even when they lose, they are singing ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It.'”

After Saturday’s win, no one was happier than the U-12 team, and the jubilant players made sure everyone knew it.

The Girls Winter Carnival Tournament continues today with games beginning at 6 a.m. The championship games begin at 8:30 a.m. with the U-12 division. The U-14 championship game is at 10 a.m., and the U-19 championship game is at 11:30 a.m.


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