Stella time for Breakaways
It’s been a while. Quite a while.
Nineteen years to be exact.
Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers reigned in the NHL. Detroit’s Steve Yzerman was just in his second year in the league.
The Quebec Nordiques were 10 years away from moving to Denver.
And, 1985 was the last time the Vail Breakaways women’s hockey team hosted the Women’s Association of Colorado Hockey State Playoffs, better known as the battle for the Stella Cup. For the trivia-inclined, Aspen won that year.
The Breakaways enter as the 2002-03 champs – they’ve won Stella eight times – and they are just delighted to be defending their crown at Dobson, starting Friday.
“It’s going to be great,” Breakaways vet Alice Plain said. “It’s going to be exciting. We’ve been getting a lot of support from the community through local businesses. It’s going to be a lot of hard work running the tournament and keeping our energy up. We’re focused on winning our games and we hope that we get some fan support out there.”
And, if a weekend of great hockey isn’t enough for you, here are three critical words – two-dollar beers. ‘Nuff said.
Seriously, this year’s tourney is stacked and it will be a challenge for Vail to retain the beloved Stella.
The Breakaways finished the season with a 14-3-3 mark and enter as the No. 2-seed behind No. 1 CU. The Breakaways and Buffs split their season series with Vail winning 1-0 at Dobson and CU taking a 4-2 decision down on the Front Range.
“It’s going to be a very close tournament,” Plain said. “Six out of the eight teams are well-matched. It’s anybody’s tournament. It would be nice if we could come through. We have the potential, if we put it all together. I know all the teams are going to be gunning for us.”
There will be no gimmies for the Breakaways in the Red Pool. Vail starts with Breckenridge Friday at 5:30 p.m. The Breakaways are 2-1-1 this year against the Blizzard, but this has really developed into a nice High Country rivalry.
“It’ll be a battle,” Plain said. “This has turned into an Aspen-like rivalry where whoever has the most heart is going to win. We’re very evenly matched. We’re friends off the ice, but once we get on the ice, it’s a rough game.”
The Breakaways have an early wake-up call Saturday morning at 8:30 for a date with Steamboat’s Chix with Stix. Vail has 5-2 and 4-2 wins to its credit over the Chix, but that really doesn’t guarantee anything come tournament time.
Synergy (Saturday at 4 p.m.) is the seventh seed, but they haven’t played Vail this year like a lower-tier team. The two teams have played two ties this year, so Saturday’s meeting figures to be the rubber match.
In the Blue Pool, it’s CU, the Denver Bandits, the Aspen Motherpuckers and the Fort Collins Flames. If the bracket were to break according to seeding, Sunday’s crossover-semifinals would be Vail vs. Denver and CU vs. Breck.
But, as Chris Berman says, that’s why they play the games. Doubtless, Vail wouldn’t mind seeing archrival, Aspen, on Sunday. Vail won Stella last year by beating Aspen, 6-3.
There will be plenty of action off the ice this weekend as well. There will be a weekend-long raffle for assorted prizes like gift certificates to restaurants, golf at Eagle Ranch and Cordillera and lift tickets.
There will also be a silent auction for a 2004-05 five-mountain pass.