Team heading to Telluride
The pressure was on the Crested Butte Red Ladies hockey team as they headed to Craig to compete in the annual Puck Ewes Mardi Gras tournament Friday through Sunday, February 8-10.
The Red Ladies are the defending champions of the tournament two times over and have been skating through its opponents for the past two years.
The tournament host team, the Craig Puck Ewes, looked to deny the Red Ladies a shot at their third title in a row handing the Red Ladies a 2-1 loss in the opening game Friday night with Talley Nichols scoring the lone Crested Butte goal.
Coach Bob Piccaro and player/wife Brigid returned from a family trip to Mexico just in time to join the team for Saturday’s games.
The influx of Piccaro energy, i.e. threatening words from coach Piccaro, sparked back-to-back wins from the Red Ladies as they defeated the Durango Betties 2-0 and Steamboat 4-0.
Megan Paden and Hillary Buscovick each scored a goal in the Durango game but it was high intensity pressure on the puck that paced the Red Ladies to the win.
“It was our fore checking and back checking that was the difference in that game,” says Piccaro. “Our defense was just a wall. Lord knows it wasn’t our shooting.”
Nichols and Paden scored the first two goals in the game against Steamboat but the Red Ladies needed more if they were going to advance to the finals.
As coach Piccaro laid out the strategy for the third period, Brigid let the team know that if they wanted to make it to the championship, they needed two more goals in the third period.
Buscovick scored to give the Red Ladies a 3-0 lead but the fourth goal proved elusive until the final minute when Buscovick and Paden connected in front of the Steamboat net to score the fourth goal with 29 seconds left in the game.
The tournament organizers crunched the numbers and determined that the Red Ladies qualified for the finals by one goal.
The championship on Sunday was a return to old ways for the Red Ladies as they faced the Box Canyon Beavers. The Red Ladies have won five of the last six games between the two teams so the Beavers were chomping at the bit to play the spoiler in Craig.
The Beavers struck first scoring in the first period but Paden tied it up later in the first period scoring her third goal of the weekend.
The two teams played scoreless hockey for almost the entire second period until a face off in the Beavers zone with 23 seconds left in the period.
Rachael Miller won the draw passing the puck to Beth Gallagher who ripped a one-time wrist shot beating the Beavers’ goalie and giving the Red Ladies a 2-1 lead heading into the third period.
The Beavers posted three players at the blue line on defense looking to expose the Red Ladies with odd man rushes creating several opportunities.
Yet, they failed to finish on any of their breakaways as the Red Ladies defense hustled back to break up the play before the Beavers could get a shot off.
The few shots they did take, Red Ladies goalie Sandy Robinson stopped and the Red Ladies held on to the 2-1 win for their third consecutive Mardi Gras tournament title.
“We had to hold them off and we did,” says coach Piccaro. “The defense was incredible.”
The Red Ladies are now faced with its biggest challenge of the year as they head to Telluride March 15-16 to defend their Southwest Cup title.