Steamboat teen proves she's tough enough

— Leslie Perkins credits her success in hockey to her older brothers, who toughened her up for a sport that involves a lot of knocking around.

Leslie, a 15-year-old Steamboat Springs High School student, plays for the Colorado Xtreme 15-U girls ice hockey team, which is an all-state competitive traveling team made up of 16 players.

The Xtreme took first place at a regional playoff tourney last weekend in Sugar Land, Texas, which is near Houston.

At regionals, the Xtreme upset the Colorado Select, 4-3, in double overtime.

They now will compete in the national playoffs April 4-6 at Schwan's Super Rink in Blaine, Minn.

Leslie, who is a defender, says she got into playing hockey after watching the movie "The Mighty Ducks."

She has been playing hockey for the past eight years.

The movie, which came out in 1992, is about how an outcast coach turns a group of outcast kids into a winning hockey team.

Another reason Leslie got into playing hockey, she said, was because her brothers, Mark and Randy, turned her into a tomboy at a very young age.

"I have two older brothers and so they would rip my Barbie dolls' heads off and I would have to go with it," said Leslie, who also plays for the Steamboat Braves' U-19 girls hockey team.

Leslie was invited to try out for the Xtreme late last year by head coach Jillian Knapp.

Knapp received word about Leslie's skills from Braves head coach John Seymour.

"The other coaches and I thought she had potential," Knapp said. "We knew she was a coachable kid and that she already had some skills and was a strong skater."

The Xtreme's coaching adviser is Jacques Cloutier, who is an assistant coach for the Colorado Avalanche.

The Xtreme team, which hails from the Denver area, is in only its second year of existence.

Last year, the team won the district championship.

The Xtreme's first game in the national playoffs will be against Massachusetts 2 at 9:45 a.m. April 4 at Schwan's Super Rink.

Leslie, who has played in 30 games for the Xtreme this year, is a strong asset to the team, Knapp said.

"She's a very strong defender that can read the play and get the job done," Knapp said.

Even Leslie's brother Randy, who is a student at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, says his little sister has come a long way.

"I've seen her play hockey and I'm very impressed," Randy said. "She's a very good player. She's really focused and just very intense on the game."

Leslie says playing for the Xtreme has been a tremendous experience for her. During the regular season, she had to juggle practicing for both the Braves and the Xtreme and often had to play for both teams during a single weekend.

Leslie also had to balance her schoolwork with her hectic traveling schedule.

If the Braves and the Xtreme had games at the same time, the Xtreme got No. 1 priority.

The Xtreme play most of their games in Colorado but also competed in Texas and Minnesota during the regular season.

Leslie, a defensive player, has managed to knock in a goal for the Xtreme this season and has dished out five assists.

She also has a 21 plus/minus ratio. The plus/minus statistic is determined by how many goals are scored while a player is on the ice vs. the goals scored against the team while the player is on the ice.

Leslie says she anticipates competing in the Nationals.

"I'm psyched," she said. "I"m really excited. It's going to be a really hard challenge for us, but the whole experience is going to be good."

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