Girls hockey: For the love of the game

Published 9:59 pm Friday, December 23, 2011

Justina Talamantes, left, and Vanessa Talamantes have given the Packers a boost on the defensive side of the puck this year. -- Eric Johnson/

Six years ago, Austin senior Vanessa Talamantes had never skated before in her life.

Today, she is a captain on the Austin girls hockey team and her younger sister, Justina, skates next to her on the first line defense.

Vanessa and Justina were always interested in hockey as their uncle played the sport and their dad was a fan, but it took them awhile to work up the courage to get on the ice for the first time.

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“I wanted to do it but I didn’t know how to skate, so I was scared,” Justina, a sophomore said. “Vanessa started before me and I’d watch her and then I’d really want to be out there.

Once they stepped on the ice for the first time, there wasn’t any looking back for the Talamantes’. They wanted to play varsity hockey and they were willing to put in the work to make that happen

“We really had to work to get to varsity,” said Vanessa, who has been on the varsity team since she was a freshman. “My dad used to get us up at five in the morning so we could shoot pucks and run miles. He wanted us to make it to varsity just as much as we wanted to.

Justina made it to the varsity squad by the time she was an eighth grader, and the sisters have given Austin head coach Denny Bray a tough tandem on the defensive side of the puck this season

“They’re really hard working girls and they take the game really serious,” Bray said. “They’re good learners of the game and they understand it and that’s a big part of playing defense. They’re good skaters, they’re quick, and they’re getting better with their shots.

While the Talamantes’ may sometimes look like they’re angry with each other on the ice, it’s usually just them clearing things up. Bray could only recall one showdown between the sisters where they were visibly angry after practice, but they came back much better the next day

Vanessa said communication is part of the game and sometimes it gets a little intense when she’s talking to her younger sister

“Because we’re sisters we know how to play together and we’re also not afraid to yell at each other,” Vanessa said. “We usually get over it pretty quick when we get home.

While they’ve had their arguments on the ice, Justina still remembers the big sister who helped her out when she was an eighth grader on the varsity squad. Without knowing too many of the older players, she leaned on Vanessa as she learned the varsity game

“She was a big help. If I messed up or did something bad she’d let me know and she’d tell me what to do,” Justina said. “It was nice to have her so I wasn’t scared of the older girls.

Vanessa, who hopes to play college hockey next season, isn’t done playing for the Packers yet, but she hopes that Justina eventually surpasses her own skill set in the years to come

“I want her to be better than me when I leave. I want someone to take my spot,” Vanessa said

While Justina and Vanessa have each scored goals in their Packer careers, more often than not, they’re going to be watching somebody else on their team score. That’s not a problem for either of them as they put the team first

“I’m not worried about scoring, I’m more worried about the scoreboard. As long as we get goals on the board and we win games, we’re a happy team,” Vanessa said.


The Austin girls hockey team will host the six-team Hot Shots Tournament Dec. 26-28 at Riverside Arena.

The tournament will be played in round robin format and whoever has the best record at the end will be the champion. In the event of a tie, the goals against and goals for will be the tie-breaker.

There will be a shootout Tuesday at 6 p.m. for all six teams. Each team will have five shooters and there will be an award for top goalie, top shooting star and top team.

Tournament schedule:

Monday, Dec. 26

Austin vs. Minneapolis Novas, noon; Spring Lake Park-St. Anthony vs. New Prague, 2:30 p.m.; Windom vs. St. Paul Tartans, 5 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 27

Windom vs. Spring Lake Park-St. Anthony, 10 a.m.; Austin vs. New Prague, 12:30 p.m.; Minneapolis Novas vs. St. Paul Tartans, 3 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 28

Spring Lake Park-St. Anthony vs. Minneapolis Novas, 10 a.m.; New Prague vs. St. Paul Titans, 12:30 p.m.; Austin vs. Windom, 3 p.m.