A nose to the grindstone work ethic and serious commitment to the sport paid off for Sun Valley's U-16 girls' hockey team as its season came to a close in Boise Sunday.
The 2008 Rocky Mountain District Championship Tournament in Boise was the last competitive stop of the season for the Suns. Their standout play showed how far the squad has come this season.
Skating in Sunday's championship game and going 1-1-1 for the weekend was quite an achievement for Sun Valley.
"Our season was fantastic," coach Dave Hennessy said. "After years of never winning games, to be in the finals of the state and regional tournaments is quite an accomplishment for the girls. They have been working really hard and maturing as hockey players."
The USA Hockey tournament, staged at Ice World in Boise, March 28-30, featured three girls' divisions: U-19, U-16 and U-14, with 15 teams from Idaho, Utah, Montana, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.
Sun Valley, also coached by Jennifer Embree and Eddie Grimes, opened play on Friday recording a decisive 7-2 victory over Arizona.
The Suns scored their first goal on a penalty kill. Ellie Swanson converted a pass by Aimee Evans. The tally was followed in quick succession by goals from Devan Annan (Tanner Dredge), Dredge (Ashley Hesteness), Daniela Stokes (Annan/Dredge), Evans (Hesteness/Stokes), Frannie Sensenbrenner (Annan), and Dredge (Sensenbrenner).
Playing six hours later, the Suns fell to eventual champion Colorado 8-0.
The loss to the Colorado Select Squad essentially turned Saturday's contest versus Boise into a semifinal, with the winner getting another shot at Colorado in the tournament championship.
The Suns and Boise Herricanes have played several close games this season, the most recent, a 2-0 Suns' victory at state, and Saturday's game followed suit.
Boise struck first, scoring seven minutes into the first, but the Suns closed out the frame with Hesteness tying the score 1-1 on a dish by Dylan Peterson.
Boise got the go-ahead goal shortly into the second, but again, the Suns answered. One of the youngest members of the team, Georgy Goodwin (Dredge) found the back of the net to tie the game 2-2 and send it into overtime after a scoreless third period.
The game ended in a 2-2 deadlock. With both teams sporting a 1-1 record, the Suns moved on to the finals based on a higher goal total.
"It's always a good battle with Boise," Hennessy said.
Strong play by both teams in the championship highlighted a 2-1 first frame, in which the Suns became the first team to score on Colorado all weekend.
Hesteness went in unassisted to erase the goose egg, but Colorado netted the next four goals in a 6-1 victory.
"We definitely improved by the fourth game and played them a lot better," Hennessy said.
Georgy Goodwin was given the "Tournament Jacket" for stellar play throughout the weekend. Game puck recipients were Goodwin, who scored her first-ever goal for the team, Annan and Dredge.
Also lacing up their skates for the Suns were Nellie Brown, Erin Hennessy, Kelly Hennessy, and goalie Emma Wilander.
The Sun Valley Youth Hockey banquet will be held Wednesday, April 9, in the commons area at Wood River High School.