Michael Ward, who coached last year's girls' team alongside Craig Hess, has selected Cohn and Davis Fansler to help oversee this year's Under-19 girls Lizard Head hockey team. Cohn will be in charge of getting the team disciplined and in top athletic shape, while Fansler will help with tactical aspects of the game.
Ward, whose daughter Madison is on the team, said many of the girls have been playing since they were ages 7-8, but there are also some newer members to the sport.
"Right now we're working at getting the newer girls in touch with the game, and the more experienced girls are helping with that," Ward said.
Two of the players on the team come from Montrose at least twice a week to practice.
Cohn, a 32-year Telluride resident who originally came from Detroit (an Avalanche fan, nonetheless), said he treats coaching girls just as he treated coaching boys.
"I believe that an athlete's an athlete," Cohn said. "I told them, I'm not going to coach you any differently than I coached the boys." It's all a matter of getting to the puck or defending correctly, or whatever it takes to play the best possible game.
Cohn did admit that there are certain differences between the girls' game and the boys' game. The girls have less physical contact, he said, and there's no checking allowed, as there is with the boys. Still, Cohn said, "There's a mental attitude that can be the same between the two of them. It's saying, 'I'm going to practice as hard as I can, and every time I'm going to give it 100 percent.'"
Fansler played hockey and coached both men's and women's teams in the mid-to-late 1970s while he was a student at the University of Vermont. Fansler, whose daughter Maddie is on the U-19 team, decided he wanted to contribute to the girls' hockey team.
Fansler also has two sons who went through the hockey program in Telluride. He coached boys' hockey for a year after his younger son, now occasionally playing club hockey at Duke University, graduated from high school.
Fansler said coaching girls' hockey is different than coaching boys' hockey because the boys he has coached generally had more experience.
"It's about understanding the fundamentals, how to properly shoot the puck," Fansler said, but pointed out that lack of experience is not a negative thing. "I find, anyway, that as a result the girls are more attentive."
Fansler said Telluride's U-19 team has "some pretty good skaters and some pretty good quickness." He hopes by mastering the fundamentals of the game and maintaining an effective playing style they will set themselves apart from other teams.
While Cohn had not coached girls' hockey before this year, he said he was already familiar with most of the girls and how they play. Last year he watched a girls' game in Colorado Springs, where Telluride played a team with bigger, stronger players.
"We showed tremendous courage," he said, explaining that the girls were pummeled both on the scoreboard and on the ice, but continued to put forth the effort to compete.
Hearing that the girls participate in dry land training to stay in shape off the ice, Cohn was impressed by the team's work ethic and determination to improve their game.
Fansler noted that this year the Mountain States Girls Hockey League has set up schedules so that teams will face opponents on their playing level.
The Lizard Head girls will have a glimpse of professional hockey in late January, the same weekend they play a game against Colorado Springs. The team will see a Colorado Avalanche game against the Phoenix Coyotes on Jan. 26 in Denver.
"Women's hockey is the fastest growing segment of USA hockey," said Cohen.