Team Colorado Director of Hockey Shaun Hathaway has watched some of Colorado’s top teenaged girls’ hockey prospects leave the state in recent years. Some head to play at prep schools on the East Coast. Others relocate further north in the Midwest. Wherever they go, leaving Colorado is a blow to the state’s hockey organizers and participants who’d like to establish the Centennial State as a hotbed for the sport in the United States.
Now, there’s a plan to help ensure Colorado gets to keep its homegrown talent.
In addition to its mission to provide girls ages 13-19 with a culture that promotes teamwork, competition, fun, sportsmanship and lasting team relationships while maximizing the development of hockey-specific skills, Team Colorado has established a season-long AAA girls’ program at the 14U level, joining its already-existing 16U and 19U teams, all of which Hathaway hopes will be competitive with the top club teams in the country.
Team Colorado is a unique program operated by the Colorado Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) with support from six leading youth programs committed to growing and advancing elite girls’ hockey participation throughout the state. Founded in 2016, the Team Colorado concept has quickly formed into a structured high-performance program, and is the only Tier-1 (AAA) program sanctioned by CAHA for girls’ hockey in the state.
“Over the last decade we’ve lost so many players to out-of-state programs,” Hathaway said. “Players get [to be] 14, 15, 16 [years old] and they leave to go to prep school. They go out East, they go to [the] Midwest to go play AAA hockey. We had not been competitive in AAA hockey and so this program is the solution to try to fix that.”
Hathaway implemented his vision in earnest more than two weeks ago, when he and the other Team Colorado coaches took their first looks at the girls vying to fill the roster spots at team tryouts. More than 100 prospects, including some from outside Colorado, participated in the three-day event starting July 10 at the Sports Stable in Superior. Coaches evaluated the players and rostered 57 girls across the three teams.
Each team will practice at Denver’s Big Bear Ice Arena, where they have full-season use of professional team rooms. They also have access to the weight room at the Sports Stable, where they will practice and play games on the weekends.
The 19U team’s first event is the Quinnipiac University Faceoff, slated for early September. The 16U squad heads to New Hampshire in early October for its first event, the Exeter Showcase, while the 14U team is entered in the East Coast Wizards 14U Invitational that is scheduled to be played Oct. 9-10 in Bedford, Massachusetts.
The regular season closes in February while the first postseason event is set for March 3-5, when all three teams are hoping to compete in the Rocky Mountain Districts and advance to the USA Hockey Nationals in West Chester, Pennsylvania from March 25-29.
Assuming the season begins and progresses as planned — no sure thing given the uncertainty amid the COVID-19 pandemic — the teams will be looking to establish themselves while logging lots of travel time.
“We travel because there’s no competition in the state, so we travel everywhere,” Hathaway said. “But we travel to the top AAA tournaments in the nation and all of them are out East or in the Midwest. We go where the college scouts are and where the top teams are gonna be.”
It may be difficult for college and team scouts to overlook the talent on this year’s 19U team.
Forward Kelsey Ross is a Littleton native who last season played for the North American Hockey Academy in Stowe, Vermont. She will suit up for the 19U team this year, a major victory for Hathaway’s lofty goals of Colorado competing with the more traditional hockey powerhouses.
The 19U program is led by its two goaltenders, both of whom Hathaway considers to be NCAA Division I prospects. Annalena Heuten played for the 16U team in 2019-20 but moved up to split time with Vanessa Ruban this season. It’s the first time in four years Heuten won’t be the only goalie on her team.
“It gives me a chance to have breaks when I’m not playing games, watching how she plays,” Heuten said. “And I can learn from [Ruban] and she can learn from me.”
The 16U team could draw plenty of attention this season. While mostly made up of girls from the state, the team also includes several players from surrounding states. There’s even a forward from Washington state.
That interest and desire — as well as the players’ talents — has confidence running high.
“We’re seeing a huge increase in our skill level and people wanting to come in from other states to play on Team Colorado, which is amazing to see,” said Team Colorado veteran Abigail Komrofske, who plays defense for the 16U team.
In what may be the most consequential move made by Team Colorado, the 14U team is altering its season focus.
In previous years, the 14U squad operated exclusively as a tournament team in action for only a couple weekends each year. That system was never going to last long given the ambitions of the larger program.
“Whenever I played on the tournament team I was also playing on another team, so there [were] no practices with the tournament team; there was no team bonding or anything,” Komrofske said. “You got together through the weekend — the girls were all amazing and we were all close — but we didn’t have the chemistry that you build at practice.”
The team now has eight regular-season events on its schedule.
“We felt that this year was the right time [to expand its season],” Hathaway said. “We had the numbers, the player pool and [it was] just simply the right time to take that next step. And it essentially completes our program.”
Expanding the scope of the 14U team is not the only change made in the offseason to Team Colorado’s structure.
The organization hired Hathaway as its professional director (after seven seasons as Executive Director of Aspen Junior Hockey) and brought on several new staff members: a new 16U head coach (Joe Delich), a mental performance coach (Lauren Spatenka), a strength and conditioning coach (Kyle Meehan) and a goaltending coach (Julie Neuburger) while retaining all coaches from last year (Brent Bohn, 19U head coach; Karen Rickard, 14U head coach; Ian Glupker, 19U associate head coach; Neil Ruffini 16U associate head coach).
It’s all part of the plan to make a name for Team Colorado in the girls elite youth hockey landscape in the United States.
“We want to be known nationally as one of the top programs,” Hathaway said.
|Name||Position||Birth Year||Hometown||Prior Team|
|Lucy Bellisimo||Defense||2003||Littleton||Team Colorado 16U AAA|
|Sydnie Crockett||Forward||2002||Cheyenne, Wyoming||Team Colorado 19U AAA|
|Liza Davies||Forward||2003||Seattle||Anaheim Lady Ducks 16U AAA|
|Kiersten Erickson||Forward||2003||Broomfield||Lady RoughRiders 16U AA|
|Annalena Heuten||Goalie||2003||Littleton||Team Colorado 16U AAA|
|Oriana Hoogendoorn||Defense||2003||Evergreen||Team Colorado 19U AAA|
|Sydney Luttrell||Defense||2002||Brighton||Madison Capitals 19U AAA|
|Maddie McDonald||Defense||2003||Highlands Ranch||Team Colorado 19U AAA|
|Rowan Nasty||Forward||2003||Superior||Team Colorado 19U AAA|
|Kyra O'Keefe||Defense||2003||Parker||Team Colorado 16U AAA|
|Corinne Otterness||Forward||2002||Lafayette||Lady RoughRiders 16U AA|
|Maci Pellar||Forward||2003||Broomfield||Lady RoughRiders 16U AA|
|Elaine Richardson||Forward||2002||Parker||Team Colorado 19U AAA|
|Maggie Rongaus||Forward||2003||Arvada||Team Colorado 19U AAA|
|Kelsey Ross||Forward||2003||Littleton||NAHA 19U AAA|
|Vanessa Ruban||Goalie||2002||Homer Glen, Illinois||Team Colorado 19U AAA|
|Jess Sanstra||Defense||2002||Littleton||Team Colorado 19U AAA|
|Olivia Schultz||Defense||2002||Albuquerque, New Mexico||New Mexico Mustangs 19U AA|
|Samira Schmidt||Forward||2003||Windsor||Team Colorado 16U AAA|
|Name||Position||Birth Year||Hometown||Prior Team|
|Piper Adams||Forward||2005||Denver||CO Select 14U AA|
|Morgan Carter||Forward||2005||Park City, Utah||CO Select 14U AA|
|Sidney Collett||Defense||2004||Gypsum||Team Colorado 16U AAA|
|Merrill Delich||Defense||2005||Colorado Springs||Team Colorado 16U AAA|
|Reilly Desmond||Forward||2004||Eagle||Team Colorado 16U AAA|
|Ryley Disner||Goalie||2005||Fort Collins||Littleton 14U AA|
|Macy Gehrke||Forward||2004||Greenwood Village||Team Colorado 16U AAA|
|Emily Gerrie||Forward||2004||Littleton||Team Colorado 16U AAA|
|Katie Johnson||Forward||2005||Eagle||Vail Bantam A|
|Cassidy Kinzler||Forward||2005||Avon||Aspen 14U AA; Vail 15U A|
|Abigail Komrofske||Defense||2004||Colorado Springs||Team Colorado 16U AAA|
|Isabella Paswaters||Forward||2005||Northglenn||Team Colorado 16U AAA|
|Sydney Perincheril||Defense||2005||Lafayette||Lady RoughRiders 19U AA|
|Emma Peterson||Defense||2004||Centennial||Team Colorado 16U AAA|
|Alexis Poppleton||Forward||2004||Gillette, Wyoming||Team Colorado 16U AAA|
|Zoe Prichard||Forward||2004||Tacoma, Washington||Seattle Lady Admirals 16U AA|
|Annika Pulaski||Defense||2005||Castle Rock||CO Select U16 AA|
|Payton Sutherland||Goalie||2005||Brighton||Lady RoughRiders 16U AA|
|Seneca Urban||Forward||2004||Superior||Lady RoughRiders 16U AA|
|Name||Position||Birth Year||Hometown||Prior Team|
|Katelyn Barcza||Forward||2006||Eagle||Aspen 14U AA; Vail 15U A|
|Sadie Bellissimo||Goalie||2006||Littleton||Littleton 14U AA|
|Alana Bouthillette||Defense||2006||Broomfield||Lady RoughRiders 14U AA|
|Piper Cochrane||Forward||2007||Colorado Springs||CO Rampage Peewee AA|
|Lainey Fortney||Forward||2007||Colorado Springs||CO Springs Tigers Peewee AA|
|Drew Hayhurst||Defense||2006||Breckenridge||Summit 19U A|
|Suvina Heidt||Defense||2006||Aurora||Krivo Bantam A|
|Rowan Kennedy||Forward||2006||Centennial||Littleton 14U AA|
|Jase Krantz||Defense||2007||Colorado Springs||CO Rampage Peewee AA|
|Evelyn Latka||Forward||2006||Highlands Ranch||Littleton Bantam AA|
|Reagan Martens||Defense||2007||Aspen||Aspen 14U AA; Peewee A|
|Anna Masiello||Forward||2006||Littleton||CO Select 14U AA|
|Masyn Mullin||Forward||2006||Windsor||Lady RoughRiders 14U AA|
|Lilly Place||Forward||2006||Eagle||Aspen 14U AA; Vail 15U A|
|Caroline Schriefer||Forward||2007||Highlands Ranch||Littleton 14U AA; Peewee A|
|Trinity Walsh||Forward||2006||Highlands Ranch||Littleton 14U AA|
|Maddie Wiggins||Goalie||2006||Timnath||Lady RoughRiders 14U AA|
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