Ava All-America: Breckenridge 15-year-old only Colorado defender selected to USA Hockey national camp | SummitDaily.com

Ava All-America: Breckenridge 15-year-old only Colorado defender selected to USA Hockey national camp

As she grew up in Breckenridge looking up to her hockey-loving older brother Luke and father Will, Ava Gosnell didn't have much of a choice but to be roped into the family sport.

There she was as a young child, donning a goaltender's getup outside the family's Breckenridge home playing the role of Patrick Roy to her brother's Peter Forsberg.

"When I was little, my brother, he used to dress me up as goalie and shoot on me in driveway," Gosnell said at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena in Breckenridge last week. "And I also started coming out on ice here with my dad and brother, and I loved it. I loved skating, and I loved watching my brother play."

In the years since playing one-on-one hockey in their Breckenridge driveway, Luke Gosnell has ascended to playing for the Colorado Springs Tigers U-18 AAA youth team at just 16 years old.

And 21 short months younger than her brother, Ava has grown to not only love the game, but to also become one of the best young female hockey players her age in the state and, perhaps, the country.

This past summer, the 15-year-old Ava earned her way through USA Hockey's state and district camps to qualify as the only female Colorado defender her age to secure a spot at USA Hockey's U-15 national camp. Overall, the national camp consisted of the top-70 defenders born in the year 2003 from across the country, and Gosnell was one of them.

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The accomplishment is currently the top honor for Gosnell's lifelong dedication to the sport of hockey as she's gearing up for another season with Team Colorado. It's a Denver-based AAA team that Gosnell first made the cut for a year ago as just one of two 14-year-olds on the squad.

Each year, the Team Colorado season effectively runs from September through March after tryouts are held the previous spring. Between those spring tryouts and the return of Team Colorado games the ensuing September, elite players like Gosnell keep their skills sharp at the state, district and national camps. Returning to Team Colorado this winter, Gosnell and her teammates will compete in locations such as Detroit, New Hampshire, Chicago and Toronto before once again taking on the Dallas Stars Elite. That three-game district tournament versus Dallas then decides which team advances to nationals.

Gosnell made her way onto Team Colorado after previously working her way up through the local Summit Youth Hockey ranks. For her first few years, she played up with older girls teams. Then two years ago, Summit Youth Hockey director Chris Miller suggested Gosnell begin playing with the program's boys teams.

"And I really developed in that first year," Gosnell said. "I thought I could go places."

Gosnell also made the transition to defender from forward. Last year, she actually qualified for USA Hockey's district camp as a forward, despite the fact that she signed up for that position accidentally.

She's since succeeded as a defender thanks to her poise with the puck, her aggressive playing style, her technically skilled slapshot and her ability to skate well in open and tight spaces, such as the corners of the rink.

To continue to improve as a hockey player, Gosnell has found herself during the season putting in six hours of on-ice work and four hours of off-ice strength, conditioning and recovery work per week. Back at her family's home in Breckenridge she goes to the garage to shoot 100 pucks and to stick-handle for 10 minutes per day. She's also a regular at Summit Youth Hockey's weekly "Stick and Puck" pick-up sessions at Stephen C. West Ice Arena.

When she's not practicing at home, she just may be watching hockey. Her father, Will, said it's not uncommon for him to be reminded the Colorado Avalanche are playing only thanks to the fact that his daughter is already on the couch watching the action. She may even watch more hockey than her brother, her father said.

As for a favorite memory as a hockey fan, it probably came last winter when the entire Gosnell family remained perched on the family couch until past-midnight on a weekday to see the U.S. women's hockey team secure the Olympic gold medal in an upset over Canada.

Naturally as a defender, Gosnell looked up to one of the U.S.'s stars during their Olympic run: defender Kayla Barnes. Moving forward with her career, Gosnell hopes she can grow to become a player with similar defensive, passing and decision-making skills as her idol.

To this point, Gosnell has received interest and communication from 15 different college teams. Her goal is to play Division-I. In fact, she recently returned home for the start of the school year from an invitation to an event at Union College in New York. If all goes well, she hopes to be committed somewhere as early as later this year or early next.

Wherever her aspirations take her, though, Gosnell will always have her home in Breckenridge to thank for incubating her love for hockey.

"I hope to play in the Olympics one day," she said.