Stella: Vail Breakaways win title
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Stella is back – and it’s been a while.
The Vail Breakaways women’s hockey team went to Steamboat Springs last weekend and captured the Women’s Association of Colorado Hockey A-2 championship. Since that doesn’t exactly roll off anyone’s lips very smoothly, it’s better known as the Stella Cup. (If the NHL has the Stanley Cup, the ladies invoke “A Street Car Named Desire” and have Stella for the Colorado state title.)
It’s the first time since 2003 that Stella is back in Vail, and there was much rejoicing.
“I think we were just so relaxed because there was no pressure,” said Jen Babcock, a 12-year veteran of the Breakaways. “Our goal was just to win the first game. We just tried to win one period, 15 minutes, and the team gelled. Maybe, it was divine intervention.”
The Breakaways have a storied history which includes multiple Stella Cups as well as several good squads which have gone to the season-ending tournament only to fall short. The 2011-12 edition was not one of those seasons. Plagued by injuries and a helter-skelter roster from game to game, the Breakaways finished the regular season with a 7-13 record and finished eighth out of 10 teams in the league.
Yet, the team caught fire – just like the flames on its game sweaters – at the right time, winning five games in three days.
“Everyone we beat we had lost to during the season,” said coach Alice Plain, who has a few Stella titles back in her days as a player. “It was like ‘The Miracle on Ice.’ Other teams were asking us, ‘What happened?'”
In short, the Breakaways had nothing to lose, were loose and played like a team from goalie Jackie Benson to No. 30 on the roster, Kelly Davis.
Diehards of the Breakaways may remember the Davis name from Deb Davis, Kelly’s mom. Kelly pretty much grew up in locker rooms and rinks around the state as a self-described “beer-passer outer.” Now 24-years-young, she’s the second generation of the Davis family to win Stella.
“After college, I moved back to town full-time, and started playing,” she said. “It was great to grow up with great women role models, including my mom, as a child.”
The Breakaways achieved their goal of winning the first game against the Breckenridge Blizzard, 3-2. Next to fall were the Denver Black Dogs by the same count. In the quarterfinals Saturday evening, Vail blanked the Denver Bandits, 3-0, which sort of caused a problem.
The ladies thought they would have been eliminated by this point of the tournament, and had planned a night out on the town. Instead, they were in the semifinals at 6:45 a.m. on Sunday.
“It’s more fun to go out Sunday than on Saturday,” Babcock joked.
With Steamboat’s Chix with Stix on tap for an early-morning contest, Plain made sure the team went through a thorough stretch and pre-game skate. That paid dividends as the hosts went down, 2-1.
In the finals, Vail finished the job, downing the Northern Colorado Comets. Unlike the previous four contests last weekend, the Breakaways trailed in this one, only to come back and claim the ultimate prize.
Stella got passed around early and often for the victory party, and that is all that is allowed to be disclosed about the celebration.
The 2012 Stella Cup champs are Benson, Babcock, Susanne Johnson, Nella Aiello, Ada Borg, Kendall Olson, Terry Stimac, Kerry Brown, Mariah Ulvestad, Kristina Landa, Patricia Kemp and Davis.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The road to Stella
Vail 3, Breckenridge 2
Vail 3, Denver Black Dogs 2
Vail 3, Denver Bandits 0
Vail 2, Steamboat 1
Vail 2, Northern Colorado 1