Sunday, April 18, 2021
Sun Valley Hockey Girls Defy Odds to Earn Trip to Nationals
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Friday, March 19, 2021
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

Six Wood River Valley teenage hockey players are among those headed for Nationals after dominating in the Rocky Mountain Regionals.

This is only the second time in the history of the sport that Idaho has sent a girls hockey team to Nationals.

The Idaho Girls 16U Tier II hockey team is headed to the 2021 USA Hockey-Chipotle National Championship in Denver. The tournament will be held April 29 through May 3.

“It’s a big honor. They have to win Rocky Mountain in order to qualify, and that’s composed of all of Idaho, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico,” said Heather Daves, the team manager under Head Coach Jason Haugen.

The team is made up of six Wood River Valley girls—Amanda Dunn, Avery Burrell, Charlotte Davis-Jeffers, Devon McAvoy, Grendel Sprong, Laura Daves, and Maeve O’Connell. They’re joined by six players from Boise, one from Meridian, one from McCall and one from Moscow.

They were the first 16U team that Team Idaho has sent to Rocky Mountain Regionals, and they qualified despite the pandemic keeping them from practicing together.

“It was a strange year with COVID,” said Daves, who hails from Hailey alongside Assistant Coach Bill Sprong, of Bellevue. “Our girls play on the local Sun Valley Youth Hockey and they didn’t allow games until January. 

Fortunately, the girls were familiar with each other’s play skills from past years.

“They’ve been playing together since they were little. They’re a very strong group,” said Daves.

The tenacious collection of players represents the best of their age in the state, according to Stacey Daniel, a volunteer with the team. They were unable to practice together outside of competitive tournaments or to practice in Boise due to Idaho Ice World being shuttered by the pandemic. But that did little to dampen their spirts. In fact, it seemed to motive the team further.

Team Idaho beat out teams that have practiced three to five times a week since July, winning its final game of the tournament 1-0 in Scottsdale, Ariz., last week.

“At a time when so many children are struggling to remain involved in team sports, these players have achieved great strides despite not being able to practice as a team outside of the actual tournaments,” said Daniel.

When the girls couldn’t practice together physically, they learned to practice mentally. Coaches created a platform for them to work on their skills via videos, individual challenges and workouts on and off the ice. And, when scheduled tournaments were cancelled last minute, the girls didn’t give up.

Team Idaho is unique among its peer teams throughout the West. Girls from all over the state try out to play on either a 19U, 16U or 14U team.

Those who make the cut also play in their home hockey programs, such as Sun Valley Youth Hockey, to train and support other girls.

USA Hockey, formerly known as the Amateur Hockey Association of the United States, crowned its first national champion in 1938 when the Hershey Bears completed a three-game sweep of Detroit Ford.

National championships for those under 20 started in 1940.

Since, thousands of players have taken to the ice to compete for one of amateur hockey’s highest honors. Those who have gone on to play in the National Hockey League include Joe Pavelski, Zach Parise, Phil Kessel and Patrick Kane.

BOYS HAVE SOMETHING TO CROW ABOUT, TOO

Sun Valley Youth Hockey's Suns brought home another state championship. The high school team has now won back-to-back titles.

 

 

 

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