FOND DU LAC, Wis. – Advancing to the USA Hockey National Championships is nothing new for the Chicago Mission 19-and-Under girls’ team.
Since starting its program six years ago, the Mission have qualified for nationals every season and have gotten to the final four on four occasions. The Mission could make it five this season.
The team punched its ticket to nationals in San Jose, Calif. Sunday by beating Team Wisconsin 2-1 and finishing the Central District Tier I playoffs with a 2-0 record.
Now the Mission focus on making some noise at nationals. In 2008 — the program’s first season — it won the championship. In 2009 and ’12, the team placed runner-up.
“Our goal every year is to win state, then to win regionals and then our goal is to get to nationals and get out of our bracket,” Mission coach Tony Cachey said. “Once you get to the quarterfinals, anything can happen. If you get a few bounces here or there, you hopefully keep winning.”
The Mission (51-4-4 on the season) beat the St. Louis Blues in Saturday’s opening-round tournament and then found themselves in a 1-1 deadlock entering the third period vs. Team Wisconsin.
“We’ve been in that situation a lot this year. We’ve won a lot of close games,” Cachey said. “The kids were really composed. A lot of our players have been to nationals and competed in national championship games. They were pretty calm. They’re used to that kind of pressure, so there wasn’t as much anxiety as you would think.”
Kim Davis scored the game-winner early in the third period for the Mission and the defense was able to hold Team Wisconsin at bay the rest of the way.
With their attention now turned to nationals, Cachey believes his squad is one of eight or nine teams that can win the championship. However, if the Mission don’t win the title, Cachey knows his team had a great season.
“We want to win nationals, we want to do well at nationals, but that’s not really our ultimate goal,” Cachey said. “It’s a bi-product of the kids working hard and playing well together and if it happens, great. But I’m not really a huge, ‘Winning nationals is our goal as a program or this specific team.’”
Playing for dad
It’s been a difficult season for Team Wisconsin 19U player Kassie Lien.
While Kassie’s been playing well on the ice, off the ice she’s had to watch her father battle cancer.
Darren Lien has been a diehard hockey fan and integral community member in Grantsburg, Wis. Darren was able to watch Kassie play during a part of the winter season, but the cancer started to become more aggressive.
“He’s at point now that he isn’t able to do a lot, and he’s at home in hospice,” Team Wisconsin co-head coach Dave Witting said. “Even Kassie’s mother can’t come to games because they really can’t leave him by himself.”
After Kassie helped Team Wisconsin win the state playdowns by beating the Madison Capitals in a shootout to advance to districts, Kassie’s teammates and coaches gave her the championship trophy to take home to get some pictures with her father.
Since Darren wasn’t able to travel to make the five-hour car ride to Fond du Lac for districts, the Team Wisconsin players and parents lined it up so Darren could watch Kassie — who was playing her final two games for the team — via Webcast and also have a play-by-play announcer at the rink.
Darren, his wife and a few relatives were able to watch Kassie in Team Wisconsin’s district games on Friday and Sunday.
“Kassie doesn’t say much about it, but you could sense from the parents with the team and the players how excited everyone was that he was able to get to see her play her final two games,” Witting said.
Chicago Young Americans advance in 14U
With a nationals berth on the line, the Chicago Young Americans 14U team came through.
Entering the third period of a 2-2 game against the Madison Capitals in the district tournament, CYA coach Mike Glass had a message for his team: “I just kind of tried to stay calm and said, ‘Look, you guys are controlling the play and you’ve got to stick with the plan.’”
Sure enough, CYA stayed with it and three different girls tallied goals as the team scored a 5-3 victory to ensure to trip to nationals. Forward Shea Nelson scored twice in the game.
Glass credits his team — which finished 1-1 in the tournament — for having great chemistry and a will to compete at the highest level.
“We have great skill and good character, but this group in particular, more than any group I’ve ever had is what I really respect about them is that they compete,” Glass said. “It’s a group of girls that just somehow has that competitive drive.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Youth Tier I
14U: St. Louis Blues
16U: Chicago Mission
18U: St. Louis Blues
Girls Tier I
14U: Chicago Young Americans
16U: Chicago Mission
16U: Team Wisconsin
19U: Chicago Mission