Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association is sending three girls teams to the state tournament.
The tournament begins Friday and Saturday with a round-robin format, the results of which determine Sunday’s finals.
The event takes place at Edge Ice Arena in Littleton.
Steamboat enters the four-team tournament as the fourth seed but has played much better after struggling early in the season.
The team started 0-3-1 but finished 6-1-1.
“I think we could beat them all,” coach Dan Zetzman said about the four-team bracket that includes Aspen, Gunnison and Vail. “It depends on how the girls show up. We usually start off pretty slow and get stronger throughout the game. Our focus is starting off really strong and continuing it throughout the game.”
The team has been led by Tehya Johnson in net. Johnson has four shutouts and 1.47 goals against average.
The team should find out pretty quickly where it stands as it opens with top-seeded Gunnison.
The Steamboat U14 girls team is 8-5-5, but its five losses have come by a combined seven goals.
“Our ultimate goal is to bring home some hardware,” coach Scott Glynn said. “It’s a great group of girls. In some of the games, we were just not able to get over the hump.”
Glynn said the turning point in the season came three weeks ago when the team had a meeting where he implored them to choose between two options:
“Option one was keep doing what were doing, and we’ll have a nice little season and go to playoffs,” he said. “Or we can ramp it up and work harder on and off of the ice. The girls have responded and played really well.”
In a tight division, Steamboat has been led by its defensive play. Goaltender Tanner Stover has given up less than one goal per game, and the team has a trio of players — Renee Lorenzen, Abigail Vandergraaff and Brooke Buchanan — who have points in double figures.
The team opens against the top-seeded Santa Fe, N.M.
The U19 team enters the tournament 11-8-1 but has on its side the luster of the past three years. In each, Steamboat won the state championship, so considering it a favorite going into the tournament isn’t a stretch.
The team has been led by the solid play of seniors Olivia Gorr (17 goals, 14 assists) and Hannah Samlowski (eight goals, five assists).
It likely will be tougher for Steamboat to repeat this year as the No. 5 seed. Top seeds Aspen and Gunnison boast sterling 17-3 records. The team opens Friday with Team New Mexico.
“We’ve finally got people buying into those roles the last couple of weekends we’ve played,” coach Fred Power said. “If they play like they did two weeks ago, we’ll have the possibility of emerging as champions once again. I think they are starting to understand it’s hard work and teamwork that get it done and not the talent.”
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com