Defeating the Colorado Selects to win the Rocky Mountain District championship was just the first step for the Dallas Stars Elite Tier I 19-and-Under girls.
Following a 4-1 victory on March 2 to complete a 2-0 sweep in a best-of-three final at the Rocky Mountain district tournament, the Stars Elite squad moves on to the USA Hockey National Championships April 3-7 in San Jose, Calif.
“We were working hard to get there,” Dallas coach Stan Tugolukov said of nationals. “For us, there are only two teams in the district, just us and Colorado in the playoffs, so it was a best-of-three series, and we won the first two games and advanced to go to nationals.”
Tugolukov noted that hosting the tournament in Dallas made a difference, with his squad enjoying a true home ice advantage.
“It’s always good to play in your hometown and have a lot of friends watch you at your game and play in conditions you’re used to,” acknowledged Tugolukov, whose squad won the first game 4-2. “You play in the same rinks and your routine is normal — you get used to that, so you don’t have to change anything. It’s good, it gives them an advantage.
“Obviously, when we play a team from Colorado, they come from the altitude so that’s a change for them, but every game always starts 0-0, so both teams start from the same position. And especially in that format, when it’s a best-of-three, there’s no room for some surprises or accidental wins — the best team advances.”
As he prepares his team to face the nation’s best in San Jose, Tugolukov believes it is going to take the Dallas Stars Elite’s absolute best effort in order to make an impact on the proceedings.
“Basically, the nationals at the AAA team level, which is the best level there is, there is no better hockey than that,” Tugolukov said. “Obviously, it’s going to be a challenge. I don’t know what our chances are, honestly. All I know is that the game starts 0-0 on the board and it’s just one puck.
“I think if we could play up to our potential, I’m not going to say we’re going to surprise everyone and win the whole thing, but I definitely think we can be competitive at that level. It just takes us to be at our best.”
Dallas Stars Elite 14U team also advances
The Dallas Stars Elite 14U team also won its Tier I Rocky Mountain district championship, also defeating the Colorado Selects in a best-of-three sweep.
“They won their games as well, it was just two teams and they won the second game in overtime,” said Tugolukov, who also serves as an assistant coach on the 14U squad.
After winning the first game of the district championship 2-1, the Dallas Stars Elite needed overtime to prevail 2-1 again on March 2.
Tugolukov noted that the Dallas Stars Elite teams are at a disadvantage over some of their northern counterparts simply because there are more players up north.
Referencing the numbers disadvantage that the 14U squad will face during its own nationals tournament, which also takes place in San Jose, Tugolukov feels like the team’s best approach is to just go out and play.
After all, as he says, every game starts 0-0.
“We don’t have as many numbers of players registered as they do, and the teams we’re playing are obviously not having the same problems [as far as filling rosters],” Tugolukov said. “But … we’re not going to be thinking about that, we’ll just be thinking about what we can do to take care of ourselves and how we’ll beat their team. They have their problems, they have their advantages, but we’ll just think about ourselves, and that’s the best way to approach the competition, just be the best we can be.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Youth Tier I
14-U: Colorado Thunderbirds
16-U: Dallas Stars Elite
18-U: Colorado Thunderbirds
Girls Tier I
14U: Dallas Stars Elite
16U: She Wolves
19U: Dallas Stars Elite