Steamboat girls hockey team overcomes slow start, wins MLK hockey tournament | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat girls hockey team overcomes slow start, wins MLK hockey tournament

The Steamboat Springs U19 girls hockey team celebrates winning the MLK tournament in Eagle last weekend. It was the girls' first tournament victory of the 2016-17 season.

— A 3-2 win over the Kansas City Storm Sunday afternoon in Eagle helped Steamboat's U19 girls hockey team skate to its first tournament title of the season, and the team's coach is optimistic the showing could be a sign of things to come.

"I think this is the kind of result that can set the tone for the rest of the season," coach Paul Mitchell said. "If we finish strong, we can still make the playoffs. This tournament gives our girls plenty of confidence, and now, it’s up to them to make it happen."

Steamboat went 3-1-1 at the MLK girls hockey tournament, which was held last weekend. The local team overcame a slow start Friday to finish strong the final two days. Steamboat tied Vail in the first game and then lost to the Kansas City Storm, 3-0 in the second game.

"Even in the games we lost and tied, we played really well," team captain Harriet Leeson said. "We dominated and played most of the game in their offensive zone."

But on Saturday, the team rebounded with a 5-0 win over the Colorado Select and then topped Summit 4-2 on Sunday morning to earn a shot at the title.

Five hours later, Steamboat was back on the ice to face the Kansas City team, for a second time in the tournament.

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"I think we just wanted it a little more," Leeson said of the championship game. "It felt really good to come back and beat a team we lost to earlier in the tournament. I think we were playing better as a team, and we pushed ourselves the whole game. We really wanted to win it for Emmie (Thompson), and it showed in the way we played."

Thompson skated into the boards and dislocated her shoulder in the early game Sunday. Steamboat was tied with Summit 1-1 at the time, but the team rallied to take a 4-1 lead and held on for a two-goal victory.

Leeson said winning a tournament is one of the goals the team talked about at the start of the season, and she said it was a driving factor when the team discovered that they would be playing in Sunday's championship game.

Steamboat, 1-1-4, will return to league play this weekend with two games against Vail at Howelsen Sunday. The puck will drop at 10:30 a.m. for the first game and 2:30 p.m. for the second.

Mitchell said this has been a growing season for the Steamboat team, but the recent success on the ice is the result of hard work. He knows this team can continue to win, and he expects they’ll keep getting better as the season moves forward.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966