The Ice Women cometh: Summit women’s hockey expands
BRECKENRIDGE – Late Tuesday night, when most folks were settling in for the night, a group of women were cheering for a little carnage. Under the yellow lights of Stephen C. West Ice Arena, they cheered for their friends and teammates to chase down loose pucks, fire off slap shots and, on occasion, send somebody to the ice.
“There’s no deliberate checking,” said Sarah Oliver, who muffled a laugh afterward. It was 11:23 p.m. and Oliver and other local women hockey players like Denise Gregory and Niki Angelo were participating in tryouts, featuring enough players to fill two sides, including a handful of subs.
In the last three years, three new women’s hockey teams have formed in Summit County, much to the delight of Erik Chapin, who coaches the Breckenridge Blizzard, the county’s A team.
“I’ve been a part of hockey for a long time, and it’s nice to see the growth,” Chapin said. “Last year was my first year coaching these ladies and I really enjoyed it. I’m looking to stay with this for a long time.”
While checking isn’t allowed in the Women’s Association of Colorado Hockey League, the game is still physical. The skating is still fast. And the competition – including teams from Colorado College and the University of Colorado – speaks for itself.
“Everything goes on, you just get penalties for it,” Gregory said.
The tryouts were supposed to go from 10-11 p.m., but the ladies kept skating. The staff outside the arena was waiting to clean up, but as the puck kept moving, so did the tryouts.
Eventually, a half-hour later than scheduled, the ice emptied and Summit’s women hockey players wandered off.
“This isn’t just a guy thing anymore,” Gregory said. “It’s more available now. We have leagues for girls under 14. They’re being exposed to this sport much earlier than I did.”
The expansion of women’s hockey has reached all parts of the state, including Craig and Steamboat Springs. While Vail and Aspen are known for being Colorado’s best, the Blizzard jumped to the forefront last season.
During the state finals, the Blizzard knocked off Aspen. Earlier in the year, with half the team trapped by a snowstorm in Summit, a team of six beat Fort Collins.
“The trick for us,” said Blizzard captain Holly Tallman, “is to keep this team competitive, while having lots of fun. We do a lot together as a team.”
When in Aspen, Tallman says, they ski Aspen; the same goes for Steamboat, too.
The local teams, including the Breckenridge Blast and the Breckenridge Fury, travel every weekend during the winter and complete a 21-game schedule. Along the way, they ski the same resorts they’re hoping to beat.
But the camaraderie doesn’t end in the spring. The Blizzard hosts an open skate at the ice arena every Sunday and take semiannual trips to Fruita to do some mountain biking.
The Blizzard will get a chance this weekend to see where it stands. Friday at 7 p.m., Breck takes on the Vail Breakaways as a part of a season-opening tournament.
“The Breakaways are always the best team in the state, talent-wise,” Chapin said. “We’ll definitely see where we stand, right off the bat.”
For more information, call (970) 389-3363 or visit http://www.wachockey.com.
Ryan Slabaugh can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 257, or at email@example.com.
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