WEHA u19 girls hockey battles in post season in Gunnison

“They’ve improved a lot, especially the players new to the program, it’s been cool to see”

By Than Acuff

After finishing sixth in the league and then winning one of two games last weekend in the league playoffs in Gunnison, the West Elk Hockey Association (WEHA) Wolverines u19 girls hockey team earned a spot at the state tournament this coming weekend in Denver. 

The Wolverines opened the league playoffs against Telluride on Saturday, February 24. After beating Telluride earlier in the season and then tying them 3-3, WEHA lost their last two meetings toward the end of the season. But teams can peak for the post season and that’s what happened Saturday as the Wolverines skated to a 4-0 shutout against Telluride.

“Our newer players played really well, and we’ve been waiting for that,” says coach Joel Aslanian. 

The Wolverines opened it up from the very first faceoff pressing into Telluride’s zone to fire off a couple early shots. Their work rate then proved the difference three minutes into the game when Nicola Roberts picked off a pass by the blue line and skated straight to the net to score.

Two minutes later the Wolverines struck again when Haley Roberts slipped the puck to Kathryn Frey in the slot and Frey pushed it past the Telluride goalie for a 2-0 lead. WEHA goalie Reilly Seward turned away the chances Telluride did get and WEHA carried their 2-0 lead into the second period.

Seward came up with a big save to open the second period and before Telluride could mount a comeback, WEHA struck a third time when the Wolverines defense forced a turnover and Frey skated to goal holding off a Telluride player draped on her back to score.

Telluride threatened once again during a powerplay with numerous chances, but the Wolverines protected the house and Seward remained in the zone to stop all shots that made it through.

WEHA came out of the penalty kill and went back to work to then score a fourth goal as they won a faceoff in their own zone to send Frey up ice with the puck. Frey drew a defenseman and dished the puck off to Bristol Buffington and Buffington scored her first goal of the season for a 4-0 lead.

Telluride turned up the heat in the third period, but the Wolverines remained on point protecting their four-goal lead and sealing the shutout win. Seward finished the game with 34 saves.

“Our girls played a solid three periods and came out on top,” says Aslanian.

The win pushed the Wolverines into the late game to face the Colorado Springs Tigers with the finals one win away. But the Tigers are the number one team in the league and can politely be described as “physical” and had taken down the Wolverines both times they met during the regular season.

“I told the girls before the game, don’t engage with what they do, let’s just do what we do,” says Aslanian.

Colorado Springs scored two goals in the first period and two more in the second before the Wolverines struck back when Nicola scored during a powerplay early in the third period. The Tigers responded but the Wolverines tacked on two more goals as Nicola and Gabi Silva both scored, but WEHA still fell short to lose 5-3.

“I was really proud of them and how they handled themselves,” says Aslanian.

The loss set the Wolverines up to face Telluride once again and this time, Telluride got the better of them to win 4-2. Nicola and Frey scored for WEHA with assists coming from Silva and Allie Schwartz while Seward had 28 saves in the game.

“Telluride just played hard and outcompeted us,” says Aslanian.

While not the ending the Wolverines hoped for, they still managed to qualify for the state tournament in Denver this weekend. Unfortunately, they will face the same teams they have all season.

“I wish we had teams from other leagues there, even if they’re much better than us,” says Aslanian.

Regardless, Aslanian likes where the team is and how far they’ve come during the long season, mostly spent on the road.

“They’ve improved a lot, especially the players new to the program, it’s been cool to see,” says Aslanian.

Check Also

Big fourth quarter leads to Titans lacrosse win

Home game Thursday, April 11 at 4 p.m. By Than Acuff   The Crested Butte …