Team Colorado 16U AA team finding early success, eyeing fruitful 2023-24 season
For Team Colorado 16U AA coach Shelby Butler, seeing her team win the 200×85 CCM Hockey tournament two weeks ago in Dallas is hopefully the tip of the iceberg for what the squad can achieve this season.
“From tryouts in August picking this team, my assistant coach (Dru Burns) and I knew we were going to have a strong group with the talent that was on the ice,” said Butler. “Winning the Dallas tournament, I hope, shows the girls that they are capable of going to the top this year. Of course, it is very early in the season and we still have work to do, but I hope it lights a fire to continue to work hard, get better, and grow.
“I think the success of the weekend showed them that.”
Butler added that what she likes most about the team is the girls’ compete level that all of them bring to the rink on a daily basis, something that was on full display in Dallas.
“This is a team that wants to win, and they are all putting in the effort to make that happen,” said Butler. “We were able to make small adjustments within games and the girls would respond immediately and put those changes into action. Looking back at our game sheets from the Dallas tournament, every single player was on the score sheet, whether that was goals or assists. Every girl had at least one point that weekend, and that’s pretty amazing. I haven’t seen that often in my coaching career, but it’s fun to watch and be a part of. Both our goalies only had a combined five goals scored against them in five games.”
The Team Colorado 16U AA team is a bit different than a normal full-time team, playing just as a tournament team, so all the players have at least one, some even two other teams they are playing on full time this season aside from TC.
“This makes things a bit more challenging as my assistant coach and I only have minimal time with them,” explained Butler. “One of our big focuses at the front of this season is building a team off the ice, scheduling a lot of fun team-building activities to get these girls comfortable with each other as we don’t see one another on a consistently regular basis. I think this Dallas tournament was a great start. We really saw the girls start to come out of their shells and feel more comfortable together, on and off the ice.
“We want these girls to play for each other. As we continue to get more practices and a few more games under our belts, we can really start to focus on the little systematic details Dru and myself expect.”
As a team, Butler said getting to the USA Hockey National Tournament, “and winning it,” is the end goal.
“Along the way as a coaching staff, our goal is to continue to get better,” said Butler. “We want to be taking steps forward, making each of the girls better hockey players in any way possible, and have as much fun as possible along the way. It’s hard to say the one thing that will make a season successful because we are going to have lots of successes and maybe a few setbacks along the way this season. Ultimately, if the girls are getting better, enjoying hockey, working hard and finding wins, that’s a successful year for me as a coach.
“The next few weeks, we will focus on some areas of our game from Dallas that need work. We have another tournament coming up in Arizona pretty quickly, so we have a things we need to get figured out before then. We’ll also focus on getting more team time off the ice.”
Individually, Butler said this team has a good many players she can see advancing up the ladder after this season.
“I absolutely see a large portion of this team continuing on with high-level hockey,” Butler said. “Most likely, a few of these girls could make our AAA team next season, and many of them could find themselves in college hockey. Like I said earlier, these tryouts were some of the most competitive I’ve seen in a while, and the level of talent for girls hockey in Colorado right now is really amazing to see.
“This team is filled with talented and strong hockey players, and I can’t wait to see where they all end up.”
— Matt Mackinder
(October 18, 2023)