“I have complete confidence that my girls will rise to the occasion”
by Than Acuff
Coach Tony Lambert knew it was going to be a tough finish to the regular season for his WEHA Blades U19 girls hockey team when they headed to Colorado Springs.
All season long both the Blades and Colorado Springs proved to be the top two teams in the league and while Lambert didn’t know too much about their opponent, he had heard plenty of stories.
“I only knew what other teams had told me who played them,” Lambert said. “They were saying that they are extremely physical and they have some double-rostered players who also play on a boys midget hockey team.”
Despite the rumors swirling about the Colorado Springs team, the Blades took it all in stride when they opened against them in the first game on Saturday, February 20, opening the scoring in the fourth minute of the first period when Maddie Lambert blasted a shot from the point off a pass from Jaden Cavarra.
“I think we surprised them,” Lambert said.
The Blades carried their one-goal lead throughout the first period and held on to it throughout the second period, despite losing their momentum built off of the first goal.
“We went into a second period lull,” Lambert said. “We sort of sat back and watched and somehow survived it. Anika [Anderson] played outstanding in net.”
Colorado Springs eventually broke through in the opening minute of the third period scoring on a power play to tie the game and then took a 2-1 lead a minute later. Fortunately, the Blades regrouped to keep Colorado Springs from blowing the game open and the two teams battled through the third period with the Blades knocking on the door.
“I think the girls realized what was happening and the younger players did step up,” Lambert said.
With two minutes left and a face-off in the Colorado Springs zone, Lambert called a time-out, pulled the goalie and reminded his team of the task at hand. The girls answered the call and held the puck in the Colorado Springs zone almost the entire time, eventually tying the game with six seconds left when a shot from Bradley Santelli grazed off of Sierra D’Aquila and past the goalie.
“We had a nice barrage of shots and face-offs and pulled off the tie,” Lambert said.
While happy with the late-game heroics, both Lambert and the team felt like they let the game get away and were looking forward to the next game with Colorado Springs on Sunday, February 21.
“They all agreed that they should have won that game and the attitude was, let’s take it to them,” Lambert said. “And—we didn’t.”
Colorado Springs brought in reinforcements for the second game as two more players suited up from their list of double-roster players. The addition made a huge difference in the Colorado Springs game as they brought an even more physical style and faster pace to the rematch.
“It was a completely different team,” Lambert said.
Colorado Springs jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period and then tacked on two more goals in the third for the 4-0 win.
“After the first two goals I think the girls were just scared,” Lambert said. “Anika was playing out of her skull, it could have easily been 15-0.”
Fortunately, the loss may have fueled the Blades’ fire as they head into the post-season this weekend.
“I think the girls learned something,” Lambert said. “They realized things just don’t happen, you gotta go out and work for it.”
The top six teams from the league will head to Littleton for the league playoffs and the Blades are going in as the second seed behind Colorado Springs. Lambert expects his team to make a run at the title game but four games stand between them and a possible rematch with Colorado Springs in the championship game.
“Hopefully we’ll go 4-0 and meet Colorado Springs again but it’s going to take a perfect game to beat them,” Lambert said. “We have the best defense and the best goalie in the league and we’re getting shots, we’re just not taking advantage of it. I have complete confidence that my girls will rise to the occasion.”