The CU women’s hockey team is working harder than ever this season.
This club team is part of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) and the Women’s Association of Colorado Hockey (WACH). It is the all-female counterpart to the men’s Divison II and Divison III squads at CU.
The CU women's hockey team is currently 4-11-1 in the 2011 season. The women will play this weekend twice against Western State in Gunnison, Colo. (CU Independent Illustration/Adam Milner)
The team competes regularly against other ACHA teams, including Grand Valley, Michigan State, Ohio State and in-state rival Colorado State. Despite the Buffs’ current 4-11-1 record, their victories have been crucial ones — including a 3-1 win against CSU at the Pepsi Center in Denver on Nov. 5.
“I look forward to that [game] every year,” said junior team captain Brita Schneiders. “It was fun to beat the Rams when they were the home team … and it was a great confidence booster before heading out to Chicago the following weekend.”
The Rams got their rematch that weekend, though, holding off CU 1-0 during a tournament at the Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville, Ill., on Nov. 13.
The rivals will face off at least twice more this season, on Jan. 21 at the CU Recreation Center and on Feb. 10 in Fort Collins.
CSU is just one opponent, however, and the Buffs must prepare for other teams that pose a threat.
Senior team captain Lindsay Maier said Michigan State may be Colorado’s toughest competition. The Spartans recruit many talented players from the Michigan class AAA high school girls’ teams — not to mention, MSU has last year’s national title to defend. The Buffs have fallen to the Spartans twice this season, on Oct. 27 and Nov. 11.
In order for the Buffs to overcome forces like MSU, they need to have the endurance to stay strong throughout their games, Schneiders said. She said the team’s head coach Kristen Van Slyke incorporates conditioning into almost every practice to accomplish this goal.
“Some practices have been brutal,” Schneiders said. “But then we still have legs left at the end of the third period, and it’s worth it.”
Membership on a club team means more than just winning and losing games, however. Many of the team’s athletes, including Schneiders and Maier, played hockey in high school, but they said they feel a different team atmosphere at the collegiate level.
Maier said she was the only girl on her high school team, and playing with other women has been a rewarding experience.
“I went from having a team full of prospective boyfriends to the CU team full of sisterhood,” Maier said. “Every player on the CU team has a different personality, and it makes for an interesting team dynamic.”
Maier said the teammates tend to get along, and they often spend time together outside of regular practice.
“Whether it’s studying together or getting pumpkin spice chais together — a team favorite — it’s a pretty supportive group of friends,” Maier said.
In addition to competing regularly, the team reaches out to others in the hockey community through its work with the local Arvada girls’ teams. The CU athletes help the younger girls with drills and skill development, while the girls cheer on the Buffs at a couple of their games throughout the season.
“We go to the girls’ practices and help with on-ice skills, pretty much teach them how to play hockey and be role models for them,” Maier said. “They are always excited to see us, and I think it’s pretty special for them to have the opportunity to skate with college players.”
Jennifer Tatnall, coach of the Arvada U-12 girls’ team, said the mentorship program gives the girls confidence that they can continue to play hockey as they grow older, even if they choose not to attend a Division I school.
“It’s nice for our girls to see that it’s possible to play at the college level,” Tatnall said. “There are other options if they don’t make the D1 [Division I] level or if they choose to stay in-state.”
Whether the Buffs are taking on their rivals on the ice or serving as role models to younger athletes, they are certainly devoted to the sport they love.
The CU women compete this weekend in two games against Western State in Gunnison, Colo. Saturday’s game is set for 4:30 p.m., while Sunday’s is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Both will take place at the Jorgensen Ice Arena.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Caryn Maconi at Caryn.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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