One of the Tri-Valley's youngest all-girls hockey teams has earned a place in Lady Blue Devils history by bringing home the program's first-ever tournament championship.
The 10-and-under squad won the 2017 Lady Ducks Fall Classic Hockey Tournament in Southern California over Thanksgiving weekend on the strength of three consecutive shutouts, including a thrilling shootout victory in the title game.
"I am beyond excited for these girls to see success of their effort," said head coach Alex Kaplenko, who also serves as Lady Blue Devils hockey director. "Many of them have been with us from the early days of the program and are developing into strong hockey players and confident women while building lifelong memories and friendships."
"This is an incredible day for the Lady Blue Devils program," added Dave Curtis, president of the Tri-Valley Minor Hockey Association. "The dedication to building this program from the directors, coaches, players and parents over the past years is the reason for the success of this program."
The tournament got off to an inauspicious start for the Lady Blue Devils, who lost their opening game to the San Diego Gulls 3-1 -- which team officials joked could have been a "post-Disneyland hangover" for the girls. The competition was held a bit outside Anaheim in Lakewood on Nov. 24 and 25.
The young hockey players regained their focus in their next two games, beating the San Jose Junior Sharks 8-0 and the Anaheim Lady Ducks 3-0 to finish round-robin play with a 2-1 record to earn a spot in the championship game.
There the Lady Blue Devils had the chance to avenge their loss to the Gulls, who got through round-robin play undefeated.
And the local girls took advantage.
The two teams battled through regulation play and sudden-death overtime without a goal, meaning the championship would hinge on a shootout.
The Lady Blue Devils' Jazlynn Jefferson, who dominated on offense and defense all tournament, scored the only goal in the shootout to give her team the title.
The victory gave Lady Blue Devils goaltender Alexandra Fernandez her third shutout in a row.
Tri-Valley's Cali Byrd led the division in points with five goals and two assists in the competition.
In addition to the Jefferson, goaltender Fernandez and Byrd, the Lady Blue Devils consisted of Kayla Baumann-Norris, Adriana Fernandez, Andrea Fernandez, Natalia Frost, Amber Kaplenko, Cora Kerton, Anna Markova, Sofia Tichauer, Madison Wingerd and Haley Woelkers.
Alex Kaplenko's coaching staff also featured Matt Jefferson, Reto Baumann, Derek Kerton and Nick Byrd, and Suzanne Wingerd served as team manager.
The Lady Blue Devils draw from Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore, San Ramon, Danville, Walnut Creek and Brentwood.
The 10U team celebrated its achievement by hanging the championship banner at its home rink at TriValley Ice in Livermore on Sunday.
Among those present was William Stone, who helped found the Lady Blue Devils program and is now president of the Northern California (NorCal) Youth Hockey Association and founder of the girls' program.
"Girls have been underserved in the sport of hockey, but when I saw how much it benefited the boys, I wanted to give the girls the same opportunity. I developed a half dozen programs at Tri-Valley, and the girls' program is the one I'm most proud of," Stone said, donning his personalized Lady Blue Devils sweater.
Founded in 2013 with just 20 players, the Lady Blue Devils now boasts more than 100 girls across 8U, 10U, 12U and 14/16U teams. The girls ice hockey program competes under Tri-Valley Minor Hockey Association that plays at Dublin Iceland and Livermore's TriValley Ice.