After the sharp thunk of a hockey stick against the puck, the all-girls hockey team celebrated a goal against the boys team the other day.
“Woo!,” yelled a team of girls 11 and younger.
In hockey gear, it’s hard to tell them from their male peers.
“It makes you feel muscley,” said Axie Rohn, 11, of her hockey uniform.
Axie and her twin, Lena, are two of the 25 girls ranging in age from 6 to 17 who play for Durango Youth Hockey’s house and travel teams. The local teams attracted about eight new girls this year.
Getting more girls involved in youth hockey has been a focus this year for Dell Truax, Durango Youth Hockey’s first director.
He attributes the increased interest to an all-girls hockey camp in October and Try Hockey Free Days at the Chapman Hill Ice Rick during the season, which runs from October to April.
“People don’t realize how cool it is for girls to play this sport,” he said.
The number of women and girls playing hockey is also on the rise nationally, jumping about 2.3 percent from 65,700 in the 2012-13 season to 67,230 in the 2013-14 season.
For Lena Rohn, the question of why she likes hockey has an obvious answer: “Because you can beat the other team.”
Truax believes girls are just as competitive as boys and gender doesn’t make a huge difference before the players turn 13. The local travel teams are all coed.
Players younger than 13 are not allowed to check, or smack into one another at full speed.
Twins Julia and Maddy Glotfelty, 9, don’t mind the boys too much, even though they can get in their faces sometimes.
“They’re pretty rough, which is fun, for me at least,” Maddy Glotfelty said.
The Rohn twins said they prefer to play on an all-girls team, but not because playing with boys makes them feel inferior.
“They don’t work as hard as the girls,” Axie said.
Maddy Glotfelty agreed.
“I have a lot of pride in ‘girls can be better than boys,’” she said.
Axie and Lena’s mom, Nichole Rohn, has noticed a difference when an all-girls team plays together.
“They look for each other; they set up plays a little better,” she said. She attributes this difference to the girls maturity.
To continue growing girls hockey, Truax is working to set up a 14-and-younger girls team that would travel together next year.
The last competitive all-girls team from Durango saw great success, taking third at a state tournament two years ago. A handful of the players have gone on to play hockey in prep schools and college.
“There’s a lot of opportunity for girls,” Truax said.
The girls got a taste of traveling and competing this season. They went to Gunnison and won one of two games.
Molly Burgwald, 12, scored all the goals during the games there. She hopes to keep playing as long as possible.
The 14-and-younger team is key for those like Burgwald, because at that point, pace of the games for all-girls hockey and coed teams becomes significantly different.
Kathryn Driscoll practiced with boys as a freshmen in high school last year in Durango and found it far more physical compared to all-girls play.
“Girls need to start learning to play the game the way they will play in college,” said Driscoll, who now plays for Culver Academy in Indiana.