The Craig Puck Ewes, clockwise from bottom left are, Jamie Eckroth, Lani Cleverly, Tammy Strahan, Charlene Abdella, Shannon Young, Becky Milot-Bradford, Stephanie Beckett, Annie Abdella, Gayle Criswell, coach Jerry Strahan, Terri Jourgensen and Wendy Buckley. Not pictured is Kandice Torno. The two-time defending champions of the Women's Association of Colorado Hockey - Mountain Division, will look to three-peat when the playoffs begin April 4.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

The Craig Puck Ewes, clockwise from bottom left are, Jamie Eckroth, Lani Cleverly, Tammy Strahan, Charlene Abdella, Shannon Young, Becky Milot-Bradford, Stephanie Beckett, Annie Abdella, Gayle Criswell, coach Jerry Strahan, Terri Jourgensen and Wendy Buckley. Not pictured is Kandice Torno. The two-time defending champions of the Women's Association of Colorado Hockey - Mountain Division, will look to three-peat when the playoffs begin April 4.

Mission: three-peat

Puck Ewes clinch regular season title; playoffs next

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Puck Ewes win

The Puck Ewes defeated host Down Valley Divas, 1-0, on March 7, thanks to a third-period goal by Tammy Strahan, assisted by Jamie Eckroth and Lani Cleverly.

The goal was Strahan's fourth of the season (eight total points). Eckroth recorded her 11th point (seven goals, four assists), Cleverly her 11th, as well (five goals, six assists).

Ewes net minder Kandice Torno stopped 23 shots, earning her seventh shutout of the season.

Women's Association of Colorado Hockey

Mountain Division standings: W L T TP GR

1. Craig Puck Ewes 9 2 1 19 0

2. Aspen MP2 8 3 0 16 1

3. Vail Twin Peaks 7 3 1 15 1

4. Steamboat Storm 7 4 0 14 1

5. Down Valley Divas 6 6 0 12 0

6. Steamboat Edge 2 8 0 4 2

7. Glenwood Springs Ice Queens 0 11 0 0 1

W-wins, L-losses, T-ties, TP-total points, GR-games remaining

Heading into its March 7 road game against the Down Valley Divas, the Craig Puck Ewes women's hockey team didn't know where the team stood in the Women's Association of Colorado Hockey - Mountain Division standings.

"I wasn't sure of the standings," Puck Ewes goaltender Kandice Torno said. "Or, how they do it. I just know we needed to win."

Win they did, and unbeknownst to them, the victory clinched the regular season title.

Craig finished its 12-game regular season schedule 9-2-1 (12-7-1 overall) ensuring a first-round bye in the upcoming division playoffs, which begin April 4 in Vail.

It's a position some on the team said they are used to.

After all, the Puck Ewes are two-time defending Mountain Division champions.

"We are the team to beat," center Jamie Eckroth said. "We are back-to-back champions. Everybody is going to be gunning for us."

Forward Terri Jourgensen said the team is confidant heading into the postseason despite having what she thinks is a shortage of players.

"The thing we've struggled the most with this season is having a full roster," she said. "You know we all work and have kids. We just have a low number of players. We are all in better shape, but that has been our biggest thing."

Despite the shortage, the team has persevered.

Many of the woman who chase the black, rubber sphere on the ice don't emit an intimidating hockey presence.

They are mothers, wives and daughters.

But, they can skate pass and score with the best competition put in front of them, when they have the time.

"Jenny (LeBlanc) is probably not going to play come tournament time," coach Jerry Strahan said. "She's pregnant again."

Strahan said that when the team is all present, and playing well together, they can beat anybody.

"When the girls play like a team, they beat teams that are better than them," he said. "That's what we've always strived for. It's easy for a hockey team with good players to beat teams that aren't as good as they are. The tough thing is to beat teams that are better than you.

"The only way you can do that is with good teamwork, and we have that."

Although Craig is two-time defending champ, Strahan said he's keeping an eye on the fourth-place Steamboat Storm.

"The Storm can bring any number of players," he said. "When all of their players show up, they are definitely the best team in the league."

Storm team president Marie Winter was flattered when told of Strahan's comments, but she said she thinks Craig is the best team.

"They are an incredibly tough team," Winter said. "They are definitely the top dog in our division. We will have to play at the top of our game if we want to beat them."

The Puck Ewes will have an issue to deal with besides a short roster.

The Moffat County Ice Arena - home to the Ewes - officially closed until next season.

The team will have to practice in Steamboat, not a short jaunt for team members who live outside of town.

"I think we are ready," winger Gayle Criswell said. "The rink shutting down so soon and us not having ice for this two or three weeks kind of kills us, but we are just going to have to work hard and play hard.

"We're ready to do that."

Jourgensen said that having played all the teams in the league during the regular season should bode well for the Ewes and having that familiarity will help in the playoffs.

But, she said the team can't overlook any opponent based on past experience.

"Everybody is looking at us," she said. "They are all after us - big time.

"We know they are going to be out for blood."

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