Their parents might not have any fingernails left, but for the Anaheim Lady Ducks Tier II 16-and-Under girls, the end result was all that mattered.
A goal from Jenn Nguyen in double overtime gave the Lady Ducks a 2-1 victory over the Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association Icehawks on March 9 in Anaheim and a two-game sweep of their best-of-three Pacific district championship series.
“I enjoyed watching our team grow together this season,” Lady Ducks coach Jessica Hawkins said. “Our team is very young. The majority of the team consists of first-year 16Us. During the season we spent most of the time playing the boys, which isn’t easy. By doing this, I believe it made our girls stronger and helped us compete at a higher level with the other girls’ teams. During the Pacific district championships, we had to really dig deep and fight hard to win against the other team.”
After Hanna Joralman gave the Lady Ducks a 1-0 first period lead in the first game of the series, they fell behind 3-1 thanks to two second-period goals from the Icehawks’ Taylor Sheldon. But the home squad battled back, as Nguyen scored once before the second period ended and then Brooke Maggy struck twice in the third period to lift the Lady Ducks to an exciting 4-3 triumph over the KPHA squad, which is based out of Kenai, Alaska, located about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage.
“The series was the best-of-three, so the girls knew that if we lost the first game, it would be hard to bounce back and win that second game,” Hawkins said. “Luckily, we won the first game 4-3, a comeback by the way, and had to take the second game into double overtime. During the double overtime, I knew the girls were tired, but we persevered and won in the last minutes of the second overtime.”
In the final, Maggy put the Lady Ducks up 1-0 midway through the third period, but the Icehawks’ Elizabeth Cho tied it two minutes later, sending the contest into overtime. Each team had a power play in overtime but could not score until, finally, it was Nguyen who ended it, beating KPHA goaltender Amber McDonald for the series-winner.
“Jenn is a workhorse and has a good shot that can find the net,” Hawkins said. “It was double OT, so at this point all our players were tired. Jenn took the puck up the ice and was able to squeeze the puck right over the goalie’s shoulder. She was ecstatic after she scored that goal. She knew that by scoring that goal it secured a spot for her team in the national championships, and she was very excited about that. We were very proud of her.”
Hosting an Advantage
Playing the district tournament on home ice clearly had a positive impact on the Lady Ducks. Being able to sleep at home and follow their regular game-day routines undoubtedly made a difference for them on the ice in a series where not much separated the two squads.
“This year it was nice being able to host the Pacific district tournament,” Hawkins pointed out. “We haven’t hosted it in a couple years. Last year, we had to travel to Fairbanks, Alaska, which is about a whole day’s worth of traveling. There were a lot more parents in the stands this year, which we were lacking last year, which always makes it more enjoyable for the players. It’s also always nice to have home-field advantage.”
Nationals on Tap
So the Lady Ducks advance to the USA Hockey Tier II National Championships in San Jose beginning April 3, not even having to leave their home state. And based on their clutch play in the district title series, Hawkins believes her team will be able to measure up against the nation’s best.
“The girls are really looking forward to going to Nationals this year,” Hawkins said. “Many of our girls have never made it this far in their young hockey careers, so they are excited. I think with that kind of energy and intensity, they will do well. It is definitely going to be tough, but I have high expectations for my girls.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Girls Tier I
16U: Anaheim Lady Ducks
19U: Alaska All Stars
Girls Tier II
14U: Alaska All Stars
16U: Anaheim Lady Ducks
19U: Washington Wild