Congratulations to the Beekmantown girls high school hockey team on winning its first-ever state championship. It is validation for a program started as a cooperative, grassroots effort.
The girls wrapped up the title with a 3-0 win over Potsdam last weekend at the Frozen Four in Canton. The win avenged a 2-1 loss to the Sandstoners in last year's title game, held in Plattsburgh.
The state title was a long time coming for the Lady Eagles.
The team was formed in 2008 under the banner of Chazy Central Rural School because individual schools didn't have the funds or players numbers to host their own teams. The Beekmantown team features players from Northeastern Clinton, Chazy, Beekmantown, Saranac, Peru and Seton Catholic.
Beekmantown took over the team in 2011.
No funding is provided from any of the school districts with girls on the team, though Beekmantown does provide administrative support. All funds are raised by players and parents, something that should be addressed now that the program has proven it is solid and successful.
In each of the first four years of existence, the team made the Frozen Four, playing in title games in 2009, 2011 and 2012. The girls have won the regular-season league championship every year since 2010.
They were unbeaten in an astounding 69 regular season games in a row from early December of 2009 to Jan. 22 of this year. Overall in five years, the team's record is an amazing 98-8-7.
Yet, despite their regular-season success, the girls had trouble finishing the job in the Frozen Four, coming up short in each of the past four seasons.
Winning a championship of any kind is difficult enough for sports teams, but state championships are the most challenging. Not only does a team need tremendous talent, honed skills and great preparation, it needs a few breaks along the way.
Heading into this year, it seemed unlikely to some in the girls hockey world that a title could be won. After all, the team had lost seven valuable seniors from last year. But the new team still boasted some notable returning talent and had a roster of strong newcomers.
Still, another unknown sprang up in that this would be the first year a team from the hockey-rich Buffalo region would join the Frozen Four. As it turns out, that was not a problem as the Eagles defeated Kenmore, from Buffalo, in the semi-final game.
In the final, the girls played just about a perfect game, limiting Potsdam to just 13 shots, including none over the final 27 minutes.
Hoisting the trophy was certainly a proud moment — and well-deserved for this team.
We will watch with great interest to see not only whether they can defend their title, but how the member school districts approach the all-important funding question for such a high-profile team.