Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Steamboat Springs Kit Rice has plenty of experience on the ice, but not even 16 years of playing competitive hockey can calm her nerves the week before the state championships.
"I've played in 15 state tournaments since that first year," Rice said. "But I've never been in goal. It makes me a little anxious."
Rice will be between the pipes Friday night when her team, the Edge, takes the ice against the Steamboat Storm for the first game of the Women's Assoc----iation of Colorado Hock--ey B2 Mountain Division Tournament.
The contest kicks off a weekend of women's hockey at Howelsen Ice Arena. Teams from Steamboat, Craig, Aspen, Eagle, Vail and Glenwood Springs will take the ice. The seven teams, including two from Steamboat, will play a round-robin tournament Saturday before being seeded for Sunday's finals.
For Rice, the switch to goalkeeper this season has fueled her love of hockey, but she expects this weekend's experience to be different than past ones.
Rice's hockey career began in Steamboat when a friend convinced her to join Steamboat's fledgling women's hockey team, the Chix with Stix. Since that season, she has enjoyed watching the sport grow across the state.
But this weekend will be different for the veteran player as she steps into goal after taking up the position earlier this season.
"I've played every position on the ice, but this year, I decided to play goalie," Rice said. "It makes me a little nervous because when you are in goal, you are out there by yourself. You are the last line of defense."
Steamboat has hosted the women's championships several times in the past, including three years ago, when the Steamboat Storm skated to the title. The Chix with Stix, who now play in the B1 division, also hosted the event twice when teams from throughout the state played in the same division.
Women's hockey has grown since then, and the WACH now is divided into A, B1 and B2 divisions based on the teams' talent levels and willingness to travel. Each division hosts a state championship.
"The state championship is fun because it's the last hurrah," said Rob Hodnett, who coaches the Storm with John Munshaw. "These girls won the title two years ago, so I think having the home ice advantage is a big deal."
This year, the Storm enters the tournament with a 9-3 regular-season record and the No. 3 seed in the tournament behind the top-seeded Puck Ewes team from Craig and runner-up Twin Peaks from Vail. Hodnett said both teams are strong, but he isn't putting a lot of stock into the seeds.
"You never know what's going to happen in a single-elimination tournament," Hornet said. "There are no clear favorites in this one."
Rice said the Edge is an underdog, but because the team hasn't been blown out this season, she thinks it has a chance to surprise people.
"I think the biggest deal is that these women get to play in front of their family and friends," said Terry Lang, who coaches the Edge. "We have a really great group of women on our team, and they just enjoy playing hockey and improving."
The event also will feature a silent auction that will serve as a fundraiser for the women's and girls hockey programs in Steamboat.
The silent auction includes two rounds of golf at the Catamount Ranch Club, four lift tickets for the 2006-07 ski season, hockey equipment from Backdoor Sports and gift certificates from local businesses.