Local Pucking Critters team wins Pabst Blue Ribbon pond hockey women’s title
Growing up in Norwell, Massachusetts, Kellie Duffy spent many a winter skating day and night, practicing hockey and hanging out on the little ice rink her father built in the backyard of her family’s home.
Just as that childhood pond was special to Duffy as a kid, the makeshift pond up Mosquito Gulch was a spot of sporting refuge for members of the Pucking Critters pond hockey team — Duffy, Andrea Rosenthal, Madeline Tank, Erin Martin and Tori Salmon — while the pandemic shut down indoor skating for many local adults.
The skaters would travel over Hoosier Pass and head to the Placer Valley neighborhood near Alma where hockey-loving locals would shovel off any lingering snow to play some pond hockey at the base of some of the state’s most iconic peaks.
That time on the Placer Valley pond each Sunday effectively was a warmup for members of the team before the five-girl squad won this past weekend’s women’s championship at the Pabst Blue Ribbon Pond Hockey Tournament. Out on the ice at North Pond Park in Silverthorne, the local gals went undefeated in their first tournament playing together.
For Rosenthal, who is also a local youth hockey and soccer coach, the experience was important to keep the spirits up midwinter for sports lovers like her and her Critter teammates.
“The biggest thing I keep saying is it’s super important for these kids to be playing right now, and it’s just as important for the adults,” Rosenthal said. “Our sanity is just as important. I think it’s important this tournament can go on.”
Martin said the team came together this past summer after she and Tank moved to Summit County and immediately looked for opportunities to play. With ice arenas shut down, pond hockey seemed like it would be the answer come winter.
From there, Martin put out feelers for teammates, and the squad came together thanks to connections back at Amherst College and via the Breckenridge Blizzard women’s team.
Once on the ice together at North Pond Park, Tank said the team’s play flowed naturally from the start. The Critters — named after a group-chat joke among the players — won game after game with Buffalo Mountain and Red Peak in view above them.
“Kelly and I have a lot of chemistry when we play on the Blizzard, so it was nice to have that,” Rosenthal said. “And then, I don’t know, it felt flowy. It felt right as soon as we jumped on the ice. We’d find the open hole, go to a space, and it kind of clicked from the beginning.”
All the while, each team member wore tails ordered off Amazon. To Rosenthal, the team needed some kind of uniform costume flair after she saw another women’s team was going to wear disco pants. After considering squirrel suits and shirts with chipmunks on them, the team settled on the tails.
The Critters’ most competitive game was its championship match versus Tropic Thunder. The women said they will always remember Tank’s physical, chippy play in the corners of the pond hockey sheets en route to the victory.
The team hopes to defend its championship at next year’s tournament. For now, Tank is grateful they got the chance to play during a winter when so much hockey isn’t happening.
“For me, this is one of the most fun things I’ve done the whole year,” Tank said. “I love hockey, I love pond hockey, and it’s great to be able to play it with friends outside, which is one of the safer places to be doing any sort of activity. It’s just such a great opportunity to really just do something that can bring a lot of joy.”
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