Steamboat Springs The learning curve Herald Stout witnessed this season has been staggering.
The coach for the Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association's U-12 girls team started the season with a squad of 16 girls, 12 of which had never seen the ice in a game situation.
On Sunday, the Steamboat girls won in the consolation finals of the Mountain States Girls Hockey League championships in Arvada to claim the state's third-place title.
"All the girls turned it up a notch and played equally hard with some great passing and picking up rebound goals," Stout said, crediting the team's ability to improve and compete against much deeper and talented squads with cohesive play and veteran leadership from four returning players - Megan Stabile, Ellana Williams, Hannah Samlowski and Monica Patten.
Steamboat lost a close second-round game to state champion Aspen, 3-0, before bouncing back in consolation to beat Telluride, 3-1.
"We stack up really well with Telluride, but we were able to give other teams with much more experience a run for their money," Stout said, mentioning stand-out performances from offensive "scoring threat" Samlowski and goalkeeper Aleigh Aurin, who notched 32 saves in Steamboat's third-round loss to Colorado Select Blue.
Steamboat's Squirt B team had won the Continental Divide Youth Hockey League to earn the No. 1 seed to a state-championship, single-elimination playoff with the top two teams from the Colorado Competitive Youth Hockey League. Unfortunately, the Squirts could not bring the same stellar play and lost in a Saturday semifinal match to Littleton Red, 5-1, which went on to claim the state championship against Aspen.
The Kremmling Cattle Kings - a team of eight kids from South Routt combined with players from Kremmling and Grand Lake - claimed the Rocky Mountain Youth Hockey League Peewee B title to earn the No. 3 seed at the Colorado Amateur Hockey Association's four-team state championship playoff Saturday at The Edge Ice Arena in Littleton.
The Cattle Kings matched up and hung with the No. 2-seeded CDYHL-champion team from Vail/Eagle. The teams were tied at one with four minutes to go in the semifinal game.
"We came ready and were right there with them with four minutes to go. We had four chances, but they had a tough goalie who made two glove saves and two low saves and we came up short," Kremmling coach Greg Miyauchi said.
Vail/Eagle finished its chances to win the game, 3-1, and eliminated Kremmling, but lost in the finals to Hyland Hills.