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New leadership, vision is putting the CO in competitive girls' hockey

By Wilson Moore, SportsEngine, 07/27/20, 5:00PM MDT

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Hub exclusive: Team Colorado girls enters the upcoming season with remade rosters and a goal of building a reputation as one of the nation's best organizations.

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.”

First look

 

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.”

Introducing this year's teams

 

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.”

Scroll down the page to view each team's roster

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.”

Putting the CO in competitive girls' hockey

 

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.


19U AAA

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

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

14U AAA

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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