“They definitely had the desire to go out and beat Aspen”
by Than Acuff
Last week, WEHA Blades U19 girls hockey coach Tony Lambert mentioned he felt his team was playing with more intent but still in the midst of a mid-season lull. Often, situations such as that lead to teams falling short of wins they shouldn’t, much like what happened the week before against New Mexico. But Aspen is one of the top teams in the league and Lambert knew they matched up well; it was just a matter of what Blades team would take the ice.
“I was more afraid of us beating ourselves,” admited Lambert.
But, Aspen has a way of bringing out the best in the Blades and it appears the Blades have climbed out of their lull, skating to a couple of wins over league opponent and longtime rival Aspen.
“They got quite a bit more leadership from the upperclassmen and went out and did it for themselves,” said Lambert. “They definitely had the desire to go out and beat Aspen.”
The Blades set the tone early for the first game on Saturday, February 6, flying up and down the ice and getting quality looks on net. The Blades cracked the seal on the Aspen net eight minutes into the first when Bryar Robbins scored off an assist by Elizabeth Stepanek.
While the Blades continued firing shots and rebounds continued falling in front of the Aspen net, Aspen managed to clear the puck from trouble, holding the Blades to their tenuous 1-0 lead heading into the third period.
“We just told them to get their sticks on the puck, keep focusing on their game and good things will happen,” said Lambert. “The next goal will make a huge difference for either us or them.”
The Blades took the coach’s words to heart, stepping up the pace in the third period. The effort paid off as the Blades scored two goals in a span of one minute. Sierra D’Aquila scored in the fifth minute and Alexis Duke in the sixth minute and the Blades skated to a 3-0 shutout.
“We came out at an incredible pace and I think surprised Aspen a little,” said Lambert. “As soon as you go up another goal, the other team starts to break down and our girls just never gave up.”
Following the win, Lambert and the Blades were expecting more out of Aspen when the two teams met again on Sunday, February 7.
While Aspen did bring more pressure from the initial drop of the puck, Blades goalie Anika Anderson came up with a couple of early saves to keep the game scoreless. Meanwhile, the Blades were making it harder than it needed to be as a succession of penalties left them in a penalty kill situation for several minutes of the first period.
“It’s tough to keep a good pace going when you’ve got a person in the box,” said Lambert. “But the girls prevailed. The underclassmen stepped up and we killed off the penalties.”
The game evened out more in the second period and the Blades dodged a couple of bullets as they got caught chasing the puck in their zone, but pressure on the puck and winning 50/50 battles held Aspen in check and the two teams entered the third period notched in a scoreless tie.
“I told them the first team to score will probably win this game,” said Lambert.
The Blades appeared to score the first goal 45 seconds into the third period but it was waved off. Despite the call, the writing was on the wall as the Blades maintained puck possession in the Aspen zone and were knocking on the door for the first three minutes straight.
They finally broke through in the fourth minute when the Blades double-teamed the puck in the corner and Stepanek came out with it. Stepanek drove to the net and slipped it across to Elizabeth Shaw, who pushed it past the Aspen goalie for a 1-0 Blades lead.
The Blades defense continued to set up shop on the blue line, holding the puck in Aspen’s zone. The Blades struck again four minutes later as Bradley Santelli skated in off the blue line and buried a low wrist shot for a 2-0 Blades lead.
Rather than rest on the laurels of their two-goal advantage, the Blades kept up the pressure the remainder of the game to seal their second shutout in a row.
The Blades take a break from games this weekend and then close the regular season against Colorado Springs on Saturday and Sunday, February 20-21. Colorado Springs is currently in first place in the standings, one point ahead of the Blades.
“We’re going to work hard next week so we don’t fall into a relaxed state,” said Lambert. “It’s going to be a heck of a match-up and probably a preview of the state finals. I’m looking forward to it.”