Bierbaum, McGuan continue lineage of female Summit High hockey players
Goalie Bierbaum stops 40 shots on senior night in overtime loss to Glenwood Springs
Without a hockey program at her hometown Middle Park High School, it was Summit High School that helped Peyton McGuan play the highest level of hockey in her career this season.
Along with Summit High student Andi Bierbaum, McGuan is one of two players continuing the tradition of girls playing with the boys on the Summit Tigers varsity team. It was in the Summit Lightning girls hockey program where McGuan had elder Tigers hockey players — like Ellie Dice, Gracie Eland, Sophia Fondl, Taylor Ash and Shannon O’Brien — motivate her to have the confidence to play in high school. Bierbaum said she thinks more U-15 Lightning girls will follow in their skate tracks.
Playing with the Tigers this season means McGuan has had to double down on her 1 1/2 hour drives to practices at Stephen C. West Ice Arena in Breckenridge. Two days each week, she practices with the girls club team and the Tigers varsity team. When she’s out there on the ice with the Summit boys, McGuan has had to adjust her game to account for the different style and rules, namely the amount of physical contact permitted.
“You have to make sure your head’s up and you’re always ready to make a play,” McGuan said. “You have to be thinking ahead. You have to have plays in your mind you’re ready to make. It definitely adds a whole ‘nother aspect to the game when you play the body. You can’t speed around the boys.”
Though the level of speed and physicality is much higher at the high school level, girls hockey players like McGuan and Bierbaum have played with boys while growing up in the local hockey community. For Bierbaum, all of the practices, clinics and games she’s put in at Stephen C. West Ice Arena and other rinks alongside the boys have helped her as a goalie and skater. For the high school team, Bierbaum plays goaltender, like O’Brien did for the Tigers last season. But on the club level, Bierbaum is a forward on the other side of the ice sheet.
Bierbaum said she never wanted to have to choose one position or the other, leading to a well-rounded knowledge of and passion for the game that has impressed first-year Tigers varsity head coach JR Engelbert through his years coaching Bierbaum at Stephen C. West.
Engelbert has gotten to know McGuan and Bierbaum much better this season thanks to his time with the Tigers varsity team and also while coaching with the Lightning U-15, who practice with the U-19 girls side that McGuan and Bierbaum play for. For Engelbert, that has meant eight practices a week when the Breckenridge Vipers goaltender can share his wisdom with Bierbaum.
“She’s just a hockey player, and she’s a competitor,” Engelbert said. “When she gets on the ice, she’s a different person and has a different attitude and everything. I can’t really say enough about her.”
Though Bierbaum has had her struggles, like the rest of the Tigers team in a 2-10 season, Engelbert said she bounced back well at Tuesday’s senior night game. In the 4-3 overtime loss to Glenwood Springs, she stonewalled 40 of 44 shots for a 91% save percentage in more than 55 minutes on the ice. Engelbert said the key saves at crucial moments helped Summit maintain momentum in an emotional final home game. Bierbaum said learning to goaltend versus the high school boys this season was a trial in reading boys’ windups and improving her reaction time. Bierbaum said she also worked through the year to goaltend more aggressively on top of the crease.
“And it meant a lot getting to start on senior night, just ’cause it was my last high school game and everything,” Bierbaum said. “I think overall, it was a good game, a close game, definitely one of the most memorable games of the season for me.”
Bierbaum plans to play at the club or intramural level in college while McGuan might play at the Division I or Division III level depending on what college she picks. In recent weeks, McGuan’s improved play on Summit’s third line — alongside defenseman-turned-forward Cassius Bradford and senior Jack Sherlock — has proven she can play at a high level on a girls team in college.
“Her skills on the ice and knowing where to be and how she reads the game is what gives her a lot of success,” Engelbert said. “Her breakout was last Friday in Glenwood. She got a shift right away, on that third line with Sherlock and Cassius, and next thing you know, we score a goal. And the shift after she’s working hard on the boards to get the puck out, up to Cooper Pederson, and Cooper scored. It was what she needed to gain her own self-confidence that she can not only play with varsity boys but be effective and help make a difference in the game.”
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