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Pond Hockey to State Champions: Steamboat U19 Girls Close Special Season With Title




The girls’ hockey team Steamboat Stampede U19 won the 2020-21 state championships last weekend with a 5-2 win over Aspen. The team coached Kerry Shea and was assisted by Steve Paoli. From left to right: 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 in the picture: team manager Beth Liggett and assistant manager Hannah Samlowski. (Thanks to Kerry Shea)

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

This season, we were much more of a team than ever as we had a lot more opportunities to get out and do things outside together. We never really thought about that sort of thing in the past, said junior captain Alivia Thompson. I think we are much more connected as a team this year, which really helped us a lot. It’s really sad that the seasons are over.

Coached by Kerry Shea, the team went back to basics looking for ways to spend time together as a team when the pandemic prevented traditional ways of doing this. When training could not take place at Howelsen Ice Arena, they traveled to Hahns Peak Lake and played pond hockey.

When a game in Keystone was canceled, the team rented the lakeside space and practiced in the great outdoors. They even participated in a pond hockey tournament.

This season was so unexpected, but it was beautiful, said Shea. We’ve been through things we never would have done if it wasn’t for COVID. So that was a very moving part of the season for me.

The 14 girls roster is packed with players such as Captains Thompson and Sage Zetzman who have been playing since they were five, but also had Mallory Thomas. Thomas, a senior, had been a figure skater all her 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 girls’ hockey team Steamboat Stampede U19 was practicing on Hahns Peak Lake when the pandemic prevented them from gathering indoors on the rink. (Thanks to Kerry Shea)

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

Scoring her first goal made her feel even more of a real hockey player. The goal came during a senior night scrimmage against a number of Steamboat Stampede alumni.

It was the best feeling. Everyone was so happy for me, Thomas said. Everyone got on the ice and hugged me. It was so great 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 regardless of my skills, I am always one of them.

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

The team went 8-3-1 this season, the best record in the league with six teams. Going into the final match against Aspen, Steamboat knew it was the favorite to win, but the win didn’t come easily.

The beginning was definitely a bit unnerving, Thompson said. And then in the second period, we started to get our groove and I was like, oh we got this. This is our game. Were the better team.

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