Pond hockey to state champs: Steamboat U19 girls end special season with title | SteamboatToday.com

Pond hockey to state champs: Steamboat U19 girls end special season with title

The Steamboat Stampede U19 girls hockey team won the 2020-21 state championships last weekend with a 5-2 win over Aspen. The squad was coached by Kerry Shea and assisted by Steve Paoli. From left, Madi Yamashita, Bella Story, Olivia Hansen, Margaux Shea, Avery Duty, Liv Thompson, Annabelle Paoli, Sage Setzman, Mallory Thomas, Gabby Demorat, Ayna Simones, Julia Yamashita, Sophie Picking. Not pictured: team manager Beth Liggett and assistant manager Hannah Samlowski. (Courtesy Kerry Shea)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For the first time in nine years, the Steamboat Springs U19 girls hockey team is the state champion. The team earned its crown last weekend with a 5-2 victory over Aspen.

“This season we were a lot more of a team than we’ve ever been because we had a lot more opportunities to get out and do things outside together. In the past we never really thought of things like that,” said junior captain Alivia Thompson. “I think we bonded a lot more as a team this year which really helped us a lot. It’s really sad the season’s over now.”

Coached by Kerry Shea, the team went back to basics when trying to find ways to spend time together as a team when the pandemic prevented the traditional ways of doing so. When practice couldn’t take place at the Howelsen Ice Arena, they traveled to Hahns Peak Lake and played pond hockey.

When a game was canceled in Keystone, the team rented the lake space and had a practice in the great outdoors. They even took part in a pond hockey tournament.

“This season was so unexpected, but it was beautiful,” said Shea. “We experienced things that we would have never done if COVID wasn’t here. So, that was a very poignant part of the season for me.”

The roster of 14 girls is full of players like captains Thompson and Sage Zetzman who have played since they were five, but also had Mallory Thomas. Thomas, a senior, had been a figure skater her whole life but decided to play hockey this year.

She had always considered hockey but never had the time to commit. The pandemic allowed her to try the sport for the first time.

The Steamboat Stampede U19 girls hockey team practiced at Hahns Peak Lake when the pandemic prevented them from gathering inside at the ice rink. (Courtesy Kerry Shea)

Hockey was a lot harder than she expected with so much to think about while wearing much more equipment than a figure skater. Despite her lack of experience, the girls still welcomed her with open arms and made her feel like she had been part of the team all along.

Scoring her first goal made her feel even more like a true hockey player. The goal came during a senior night scrimmage against some Steamboat Stampede alumni.

“It was the best feeling. Everybody was so happy for me,” Thomas said. “Everybody came on the ice and hugged me. It was so amazing and I felt like a hockey player. I feel like I’ve always felt like a hockey player. My team has made it very clear that no matter my skill set, I’m always one of them.”

The Steamboat Stampede U19 girls hockey team spent some time on Keystone Lake after a game was canceled. The squad spent a lot of time playing pond hockey this year. (Courtesy Kerry Shea)

The team went 8-3-1 on the season, the best record in the six-team league. Going into the final game against Aspen, Steamboat knew it was the favorite to win, but the victory didn’t come easy.

“The beginning was definitely a little nerve wracking,” Thompson said. “And then in the second period, we started getting our groove and I was like, ‘Oh we got this. This is our game. We’re the better team.’”

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