Girls hockey picks up speed

Steamboat high school team grows

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— Twins Allie and Annie Eggleston can't agree on how they started playing hockey.

Allie says it was because the two despised figure skating and their father suggested hockey as an alternative. Annie swears the two saw a flyer at school encouraging girls to come out and play.

Either way, the two have been part of Steamboat's burgeoning girls hockey program for more than five years.

They've gone from playing on the U-12 developmental team - for which between nine and 12 girls would show up - to fixtures on the state runner-up girls U-19 team.

"I don't think we even scored all season," Annie said of the twins' first team.

Now, the two are members of the recently established Steamboat high school girls hockey team, which has 26 girls on the varsity and another 20 on an unofficial junior varsity team.

"I think since we started out with our friends it made it more fun and we wanted to keep coming back," Allie said. "Each year we had more and more friends keep coming."

Although girls high school hockey isn't an approved sport by the Colorado High School Activities Association, the establishment of a thriving team shows just how far girls hockey has come in Steamboat.

This year's team will be run exactly like a high school program.

"The girls want to do it. They want to play more hockey," coach Alexa Pighini said. "They want to be a high school team. If that's what they want, I'm willing to try and find a way."

With the success of the U-19 girls team and the Steamboat Stingers - a traveling girls team - Pighini said the next step was to start a high school team.

Steamboat will play in the High Plains League, with 10 teams full of some of the best girls hockey players in the state.

Pighini said she knows the competition will be tough and comprised of players who played on A, AA and AAA teams in the fall and winter.

For comparison, the U-19 team was a B team throughout the year, and the Stingers - comprised of almost the same team as the U-19 team - was designated only as an A team because they were a traveling team.

"From what I've heard, it's a very competitive league," Pighini said. "Aspen played last year and didn't win a game."

Still, Pighini said the competition won't be something the girls haven't seen. At a tournament in Phoenix, the Stingers saw the top U-19 AAA team in the nation. The team also played Team Wyoming and Team Utah this year.

With full ice to practice and a team that's been together for at least a couple of seasons, Pighini said she's excited to see what the Steamboat high school girls hockey team can do.

"It's definitely going to be a challenge because we're not tiered," Pighini said. "But the momentum is just going to keep going. We're going to pick up where we left off and improve. It's not starting over with them. We're hoping to establish ourselves as a competitive team."

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