Queens of the ice

Bobby Reyes

Times Staff Writer


Izzie Dethloff eyed the clock from the bench as it ticked down in the final minutes of Sunday’s state championship game against Aspen. Every few seconds she winced in pain. Dethloff had endured multiple big hits over the weekend. While the pain was unbearable, she was determined to finish her final game as a West Elk Hockey Association Wolverine — on the ice.

Just minutes before, she was flattened in front of the Aspen net. As she lay on her back, the pain she endured was audible — even through the glass.

“I knew I had to get back on the ice,” Dethloff shared. “I was in a lot of pain, but this was my last game. I wanted to end it strong.”

Before the clock hit zero, Dethloff got her chance. She was back on the ice skating through the pain, ready to help her team claim a state title. West Elk held a 3-0 lead heading into the final two minutes, and it was evident that the score would remain.

As the buzzer echoed throughout Edge Ice Arena in Littleton, seniors Kendl Santelli, Haley Shrieves, Dethloff and the rest of the Wolverines shed tears of joy. West Elk U19 (16-1-2) had dominated Aspen (14-3-2) in the Mountain States Girls Hockey League (MSGHL) state championship game, skating away with a 3-0 victory.

A quest for redemption

West Elk had turned the tables on last year’s result, where the Wolverines were denied defending their title as they were downed by Colorado Springs in overtime.

But not this year.

This year West Elk made no contest of the championship game — and they didn’t need overtime to claim the title.

“This was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had,” Shrieves said. “To be able to go out my last year of hockey with a state title was what I was wishing for all season long.”

Santelli agreed.

“This is just the best feeling ever,” she said. “We’ve worked really hard for this. This is redemption from last year.”

For Santelli, the win was extra special. It was her final year skating for her father — GJ Santelli, who’s been coaching her and the team since they were Mini-Mites.

Under coach Santelli, the Wolverines have become a dynasty in recent years. Two years ago they won the state title in overtime. Last year they finished in the runner-up spot in overtime, and now with another state title banner to bring home, coach Santelli acknowledged that this year’s state tournament was his swan song.

“This was my last year,” he said as his eyes glossed over after the title game. “I’m going out with a bang.”

For the Wolverines, sending their longtime coach off with a state title was the best gift they could give the man whose passion for the game has earned him the title of a legend by many of his players.

“I’m really happy for him,” daughter Kendl said. “He’s worked harder than any of us. ... It was great to win with him, and for him.”

The road to the finals

West Elk opened up their title run with a dominating win over New Mexico (5-7-5) Friday night. Dethloff came out of the locker room hot, scoring twice in the first period to give the Wolverines a 2-1 lead. Sophie Hall and Kathryn Guerrieri each tallied a goal in the second period, and Dethloff completed the hat-trick with another goal to lead West Elk to a 5-1 victory. Anika Anderson endured seven shots, saving six of them.

“The first game was actually the most stressful,” Kendl Santelli stated. “We knew it would set the tone for the weekend, and it did.”

The Wolverines hit the ice for a rematch against Telluride (7-9-2) Saturday afternoon. Just five days earlier Telluride handed West Elk their one and only loss of the season, but Saturday was an entirely different story. After going down one goal early in the first period, Jansen Lucas — who was playing on both the U14 and U19 squads this past weekend — scored for the Wolverines to tie the game 1-1. Guerrieri added a goal just before the end of the first period to give West Elk a 2-1 lead. Just a minute into the second period Bryar Robbins scored to give the Wolverines a 3-1 lead, and it appeared to be the end of Telluride. Santelli put the final cap on the game, scoring in the third period to give the Wolverines a 4-1 victory. Anderson endured 18 shots, stopping 17 of them.

Several hours later Anderson and West Elk picked up their first clean sheet of the tournament. The Wolverines skated away with a 5-0 rout over Steamboat (7-9-2). But Sunday morning’s game against Vail (9-6-3) was hot from the start. The Wolverines needed at least a tie to book their ticket into the title game, while Vail needed a victory to have a chance of moving on.

The Mountaineers came out quick against West Elk, scoring halfway through the first period. West Elk evened the score in the second. But with 41 seconds remaining in the game and no goalie in the net for Vail, Guerrieri sent the puck the length of the ice and into the net to give the Wolverines a 2-1 lead. She did it again 21 seconds later to solidify the win for West Elk at 3-1. Anderson endured her biggest challenge yet — 36 shots, stopping 35 of them.

Saving the best for last

As West Elk hit the ice for the championship game against Aspen several hours later, the Wolverines had one thing on their mind: redemption. While a year had separated them from last year’s state tournament, the sting of losing the title game in overtime still burned.

Aspen had allowed three goals in four games — same as the Wolverines. But West Elk had tallied 17 goals in the tournament to Aspen’s 11.

West Elk came out quick and never relinquished their pressure. Sierra D’Aquila scored 46 seconds into the game, and with her goal the stage was set. Dethloff scored 7:34 into the first period to give the Wolverines a 2-0 lead.

A scoreless second period led to an intense third period, where the Wolverines knew all they had to do was protect their lead. While the clock ticked down the final dagger came when Lauren Shrieves slid a goal into the net 3:34 into the period to extend West Elk’s lead to 3-0.

By the time it was over Anderson had tallied her second clean sheet of the tournament, enduring 17 shots, stopping them all. In addition to the two clean sheets, Anderson endured 90 shots, stopping 87 of them for a save-percentage of .967.

“Anika Anderson was on fire the entire tournament,” coach Santelli said.

The Wolverines scored 20 goals in five games. Dethloff and Guerrieri led the team with five each in the tournament.

“We all played with heart and passion,” Haley Shrieves explained. “Everyone left everything they had on the ice.”

West Elk will only lose three seniors from this year’s team. However, the finale was bittersweet for nearly every Wolverine.

“It’s actually kind of sad,” Dethloff reflected after the title game as the pain from the weekend still lingered. “But it was a great season, and it couldn’t have ended any better. There’s no better group of girls I’d want to end it with.”

(Bobby Reyes can be reached at 970.641.1414 or bobbyreyes@gunnisontimes.com.)


Photos of the tournament can be found here: West Elk U19


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