Formerly known as the Red Ladies
Experience trumped youth as Heights Physical Therapy hockey team Da Beers edged out a 1-0 win over the Brewzers to take the 2015 women’s Southwest Cup title on Sunday, March 1.
The Brewzers were all the talk heading into the weekend as the Gunnison team had plucked some all stars off the state championship U19 Blades team for the tournament, including goaltender Maddie Smith.
The Brewzers opened the tournament with a thumping 7-1 win over the CB Stingers and looked on pace to take the tournament title but their scoring ways quickly disappeared. While Smith was lights-out in net, the Brewzers struggled to find the scoring touch on offense, tying the Betties 0-0 in their second game of the tournament.
Meanwhile, Da Beers remained cool, calm and consistent in their first two games of the tournament. They kicked the weekend off edging out a 1-0 win over the Betties and then ramped up for their second game, skating to a 4-0 win over the Stingers. And while Smith’s effort in net was the talk of the tournament, savvy veteran Da Beers netminder Sandy Robinson was equally strong between the pipes, tallying two shutouts on Saturday.
The two teams met Saturday night in a precursor to the tournament finals and the game proved to be a showdown between the two goalies. While both Da Beers and the Brewzers were clicking, Robinson and Smith and the defense of both teams left the game notched in a scoreless tie heading into the final five minutes of the game.
Da Beers broke the scoreless tie; the Brewzers came right back, scoring in the final minute to tie the game 1-1 by the sound of the final buzzer.
“It was intense all the way up to the final buzzer,” says Da Beers captain Corrie Barbour.
Based on the success of both teams during round robin play, they both earned a spot in the finals to face each other once again on Sunday, March 1. Last year, the Southwest Cup title went to the Brewzers but the Da Beers team, known then as the Red Ladies, took the title in 2013 so the championship game would be a rubber match two years in the making.
Da Beers veteran Megan Paden was determined to win the cup for no other reason than a reward for pain.
“I’m too sore to lose,” said Paden minutes before the title game.
While the average age of Da Beers was well above that of the Brewzers, once the game started, age made no difference as Da Beers were quick to set the tone and pace from the opening face-off.
Yet, once again, goaltending set the real tone early in the game. A penalty gave Da Beers a power play three minutes into the game and as they set up to fire off shots, Smith turned away everything.
Once the Brewzers were back to even strength, they looked to turn the tide in their favor with Nicole Pierce and Jena D’Aquila charging up the ice at speed. Heavy fore-checking from Rachel Miller helped to break up the Brewzers counterattack and Robinson came up with a huge kick save to deny a Brewzers shot from point blank range.
Suzy Parker continued to circle the ice for Da Beers, looking for space to attack with line mates Molly Frame’s and Hailee Stanley’s spot-on position play keeping lanes open and providing transitions out of the defensive zone. Parker found a seam to net late in the period but Smith turned her away and the teams closed the first period notched in a scoreless tie.
Hustle and heart by Da Beers continued to fluster the Brewzers team but the Brewzers remained unfettered in their game plan with Tina Butterfield creating opportunities for the Brewzers on the offensive end. Both teams would trade off several attacks but the efforts of Smith and Robinson continued to keep both teams scoreless through two periods.
The third period would prove to be the toughest challenge for Da Beers as the Brewzers came out and took immediate control of the game, maintaining the frantic pace from the previous two periods. But savvy skating, great positioning and some youth of their own helped Da Beers through a shaky first two minutes. The line of Miller, Paden and Brigid Heckel started to find their old magic from the Red Ladies days, dominating neutral ice and looking for lanes to net.
“A lot of us have played together a really long time and it definitely helps when you know your teammates really well,” says Barbour. “We just needed to keep skating hard. We had to keep the momentum going and not fall behind.”
The Brewzers got one last break as a penalty late in the game set them up for a power play to close the third period, but they continued to struggle on offense, leaving the teams to settle the title in overtime.
The Brewzers opened the overtime period in the power play but Robinson came up big to deny an early shot on net. Da Beers then mixed up their lines a bit, getting the freshest legs on the ice when possible and Parker ended up on a shift with Heckel midway through the first overtime. Heckel won a loose puck at the blue line and carried it up the boards before finding Parker and crashing the slot with a pass. Parker poked it in for the Da Beers win and the 2015 Southwest Cup title.
“I knew she was there,” said Heckel following the game. “She’s always there.”
Robinson, who finished the weekend with one goal against her in four games, chalked the victory up to two things.
“Teamwork, and we never gave up,” says Robinson. “It was great that the Red Ladies and some old school Gunnison players can come together and play as a team.”
“We worked really hard and I was really proud of the team,” adds Barbour.