Three teams a lady

Ellana Williams dreams big, takes 'tending skills to teams

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Ellana Williams, 13, pictured here at the Howelsen Ice Arena on Thursday, is the best goalie in her age group for both boys and girls. She currently plays on the girls U12 and U14 teams, as well as the Peewee boys team.

One team might have been a fluke.

Two teams? Maybe just a coincidence. But you can go ahead and call goaltending a full-fledged habit for Ellana Williams.

She celebrates her 13th birthday today playing in the net for the Peewee B boys team - one of the three Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association teams she plays on.

Williams also plays as the backup goalie for the U-14 girls team as well as for the U-12 girls, where she often takes the chance to skate out and play a little defense. But she takes her role as the boys' starting goalie the most seriously.

"It's a lot faster with the guys," Williams said before her Wednesday night practice at the Howelsen Ice Arena. "The girls will be screaming and turning off the lights in the locker room. The guys are ready to play and are focused, they -"

Williams' thought was interrupted as two of her sixth-grade teammates - antsy to get on the ice - slam one another into the lockers.

"These guys play hard and hit - it's fun," Williams said as she laughed

at the horseplay.

Williams can increase her competitive edge to match the rambunctious bunch. She's fully aware today's game rounds out the Peewee B's regular season and matches them against rival Glenwood, a team she pointed out as one spot ahead of Steamboat heading into the weekend.

But it's Williams' poise in the net that wins her the playing time.

"She's one cool character," said Peewee B coach P.J. Wharton, calling Williams his team's co-MVP. "By cool, I mean that she's very stable and doesn't get fazed. That's essential."

"She's a natural," added coach Mark O'Reilly, the Peewee B's goaltending coach. "She's learned faster, making moves we haven't even practiced yet."

Although Williams only started playing goalie last season, after the U-12 girls had position try-outs to fill a void, she has since been bitten by the net-minding bug. She helped take that team to a second-place state finish. Then, for an early birthday present this week, Williams' parents took her to her first Colorado Avalanche game. She came away with only one impression:

"(Peter) Budaj was amazing. He was saving everything," she said.

Now, Williams is at the rink for practice four times a week. She plans to keep practicing for the game-day shutouts and glove saves that keep her excited, working toward her goal of playing for the Bantams and one day playing for the high school varsity team.

"It takes practice and work, but I hope to be able to," Williams said. "I'll stick with the girls' teams and if (the boys' teams) ask, they ask."

And a win is a win, as far as the boys are concerned.

"It's kind of weird (playing with a girl), but it's more fun because we have a good goalie," said Peewee B teammate Mason Bates.

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