IDAHO — The 16UAA girls hockey team, Team Idaho, went further than any of Idaho's hockey teams have ever gone before placing 3rd at Nationals.
"It was definitely really crazy, it was nothing like I had ever done before," Abigail Lawler, Team Idaho Player said.
"All of our goals were to go to Nationals and when we first were playing at the beginning of the season I was like this is not going to happen, and then we moved the lines around a bit," Rylee Tanner, Team Idaho Player said. "And we just drew closer and closer and better and better and we really dug in and used a lot of grit but we made it."
Against all odds, after getting their ice rink shut down, never practicing as a team and dealing with a pandemic, Team Idaho earned one of the 16 spots at Nationals.
"When we were at our first game you could see us all in the locker room and nobody said a word we were all so nervous and we were all silent," Tanner said. "Then we came back in the second and the third period in the locker room for the Zam and we were all so excited and pumped up because we were winning at nationals, haha."
"We played five games, all of them within three days, and they were all within one goal," Jason Haugen, Team Idaho's head coach said. "We had two overtime games. I am incredibly proud of this team and the high level of hockey they played."
But, when it comes to hockey they're putting Idaho on the map, even when teams at the tournament were calling them a bunch of potato farmers.
"It’s just really funny because we all laugh it off and we have embraced that now," Lawler said. "We are like, 'yeah we are the potato farmers and we are going to go beat you."
"Nobody thought we could do it and all the people that came up to us after the games, like one person even asked us where Idaho was," Tanner said. "It was pretty awesome, haha."
They embraced this stereotype by showing up to every game wearing green cowboy hats.
And it didn't take long for other teams to start taking this team seriously.
"Just a lot of things created obstacles for us to compete, but we surprised a lot of teams and we have certainly done that in the west the past couple of years, but now doing that against east coast teams was special," Haugen said. "The girl's character, their class, and certainly their grit on the ice definitely shined through in this tournament."
But, beyond their accomplishments of being one of the top three teams in the nation and going where no girls team in Idaho has ever gone before that is not what they are going to remember most.
“This shows that Idaho can truly compete and be good and not just be a group of potato farmers that plays it for fun," Tanner said. "We are competitive and hardworking and I think it will bring a lot of younger girls into the sport.”
"It was definitely playing with my team. I love all of them we are really close so it was fun to go and just play with them," Lawler said.
"Everyone of those games that went to one-goal games and seeing them pull out a victory that happens when teams have a different level of bond, and this team has that," Haugen said. "It was fun to watch."