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Huge party! The Hucklebetties went undefeated last weekend at a tournament at the Snow King Sports and Events Center.

Bottom row from left: Grace Drummond, Sarah Earley, Kristi Fisher, Lacey VandeBunte, Kate Hudackso, Lisa Brown, Andrea Swedberg

Top row from left: Coach Chris Simonds, Maura Anderson, Claire Muth, Claire Vitucci, Heather Munn, assistant coach Anders Knutson, Tori Hederman, Jessica Davidson, assistant coach Colin Hill

Women’s hockey snowballing in valley

The Teton Valley women’s hockey team, the Hucklebetties, came to the Debra Doom Cup in Jackson ready to play, and charged through the weekend undefeated to claim the title.

In four games from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, the Teton Valley ladies played against teams from around the region, and in the end toppled the SLC Vixens for the tournament title.

During the championship game on Sunday, the Hucklebetties and Vixens were tied 1-1 going into the last period but eventually fought through to win 4-1. The ‘Betties lost to the Vixens in the final game of the 2019 tournament, and beat them in 2018 for the title.

Coach Chris Simonds, who has been coaching the ‘Betties since the team’s inception, credited their success this year with extremely hard work and endurance.

“They really dominated every game, especially in the final periods. The difference was conditioning, because they’ve really put the work in. Each game was close until the third period, when it broke open and they won every time by between three and five points,” he said. “They played the best I’ve seen so far this year, they put it all together.”

Lisa Brown was the high scorer for the team, finding the net in every game. Simonds gave Lacey VandeBunte the title of unofficial MVP of the weekend. VandeBunte had first donned goalie gear only a week before the tournament.

“She was stupendous,” he said. “She really played lights out for us.”

“Goalies are hard to find, so when we didn’t have one Lacey really stepped up,” her teammate Grace Drummond added.

But while they’re jazzed about the win, members of the team are even more thrilled about the momentum of the women’s hockey program in Teton Valley.

“Everyone has been working so hard this year. It’s so exciting to feel like our hard work has paid off. Our team is an amazing combination of women who have been playing for years and women who learned to skate last year,” Drummond said.

“The more exciting story is the growth and enthusiasm for our ladies’ program over here,” Kristi Fisher agreed.

Simonds said the growth is a result of the team’s encouraging, welcoming attitude toward newcomers.

“The women here who play are very special and very inclusive,” he said. “They’re always willing to take newbies under their wing. We’ve set up a pipeline for women, first they try it for free because their friends say it’s so fun, then they sign up for an intro program, get their confidence up, come out to practice, and join the league.”

Now the Teton Valley Foundation has a four-team, 65-member women’s league that plays at the Kotler Ice Arena every Wednesday and feeds into the travel team. There is equipment available for beginners without their own gear.

“It’s putting the women in a position to be successful,” Simonds said. “You don’t have to have years of experience playing, you just come out and find your level, work hard, and show up.”

That pipeline has been extended to valley girls as well. In 2017, after the installation of chillers at Kotler enabled more consistent and longer ice time, hockey mom Jen Fisher launched a developmental program for girls, as a supplement to co-ed hockey and as a non-competitive avenue for girls aged 4-14 to learn how to play and practice. Now, Simonds said, a lot of ‘Betties daughters have taken to the ice.

Visit tetonvalleyfoundation.org for more information on all hockey programs and a full rink schedule.

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