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Lady RoughRiders charting a new course in Colorado

01/08/2014, 4:30pm EST
By Mike Scandura - Special to USAHockey.com

It’s sometimes said that necessity is the mother of invention. That was certainly the case for the Rocky Mountain Lady RoughRiders.

Because of dwindling enrollments, four Colorado associations — Arvada Hockey Association, the Boulder Hockey Club, the Hyland Hills Hockey Association and the Northern Colorado Youth Hockey Association — found themselves without enough girls to remain viable for the 2013-14 season.

“They would have kept going on the same way and some organizations only would have been able to fill a rec 19 team, if that,” Lady RoughRiders President Calvin Abila said. “We decided if we all combined and had a program that was developed in the northern part of the Denver metro area, it would be best for all parties concerned.”

What transpired next was that the boys’ hockey directors for Arvada (John Mckibbon), Boulder (Chris Lockren), Hyland Hills (Shawn Kurulak) and Northern Colorado (Aaron Grosul) approached Abila, who at the time was the Rocky Mountain Lynx girls’ hockey director, with the express purpose of establishing a new girls’ program.

“They said let’s become the Lady RoughRiders and become affiliated with the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders,” Abila said, referring to the Tier I junior team from Iowa. “Prior to that, they had reached out to Cedar Rapids and asked if it was okay to start a program involving all four associations and they said it was, and they elected me president.

“We wear the same jerseys as the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and even have the same logos.”

When the Lady RoughRiders stepped on the ice this season they were able to skate teams at the Under-19 AA and Under-14 AA levels in addition to having Under-12 plus Under-8 recreational programs. The U8 program is a learn-to-skate program that’s open to all girls ages 5 through 8, or girls from 5 through 19 who have zero prior hockey experience and want to learn the game.

“We’re also teaching kids how to play,” Abila said. “But by combining with a great organization [the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders], it brought us an established, branded, successful program that’s known around the country. Now, more girls want to be a part of the Lady RoughRiders.”

When it comes to success, the U14 AA team already has exceeded expectations. In October, it captured the Western Regional Silver Stick Tournament and the Lady Ducks Fall Classic. Then, in November, the team participated in a showcase tournament, Chill in the Hill at the Edge Ice Arena, and posted an impressive 3-0-1 record.

“They played against good talent,” Abila said. “They were successful because their team was well-coached and the girls are hard workers.

“They came together as a unit and wanted to compete to the best of their ability.”

Jean Cote, a veteran youth coach in area associations, is the U14 AA head coach. His assistants are Shane McGregor and Jordan Slavin who, during the 2009-10 season as a freshman, became the first active University of North Dakota female player to compete for the United States in the IIHF World Under-18 Championship (where the team earned the silver medal).

The Lady RoughRiders are realistic about what they hope to accomplish not only this season but also in the future.

“Our goals are to get girls on the ice to play ice hockey and learn the game of life,” he said. “We’re offering them opportunities to play ice hockey.

“If a girl goes on to play college hockey, that’s a bonus. We want good structure, practice time and game time and, most importantly, for the girls to have fun. All that other great stuff like winning and getting college scholarships is a bonus.”

Another bonus, so to speak, is the play of the U19 AA team that faces off against girls in a league that has AA teams plus club teams from local colleges such as Denver University, the University of Colorado Boulder and Colorado State University.

“Our high school-age girls are really playing against college-age girls,” Abila said. “They’re competitive in all of their games. We have a young team this year. Most of our girls are freshmen and sophomores.

“They’re getting that experience and they love it. That’s what we’re offering.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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