AMHERST, N.Y. -- Assabet Valley won just one game in pool play at the Toyota-USA Hockey Tier II Girls National Championships. Then the squad turned it around, plowing through the playoffs, scoring 16 goals and letting up just two in three games en route to the 14-and-Under championship.
The team capped off the run with a 5-1 win over the New Jersey Titans in the title game.
“The coaches believed in the kids. The kids believed in themselves,” Assabet coach Dante DeMarco said of the turnaround. “Pool play — tough break against Alaska, losing 1-0. We outshot them. Same thing with Pittsburgh. We outshot them. We dominate the game, but we lose 6-1. It’s kind of a fluke. The kids came out, pulled it together and did what they needed to do.”
In the championship game, Assabet jumped out to a quick lead at 2:14. Ava Lopez rushed into the zone and from the left circle fired a high shot over the goalie’s shoulder.
“We got the first goal early and continued to roll,” DeMarco said.
Roll they did, making it 2-0 before the first period ended. Samantha Shoebottom banged a rebound from close range just between the glove and the post.
“I actually didn’t know it went in,” Shoebottom said. “I thought they were cheering for the goalie for making a good glove save because I fell. But after that it was a great feeling because you’re helping your team.”
Shoebottom had a breakaway early in the second, but Titans goalie Jordan Manning stopped it. However, shortly thereafter Assabet made it 3-0 at 3:26. A commotion in the crease resulted in Katie Hargrave knocking it in.
Near the end of the second, Shoebottom’s shot from the left point was deflected in to make it 4-0 after two.
New Jersey didn’t give up, despite being obviously tired after playing with only 10 skaters for five days.
“We were impressed with Assabet,” New Jersey coach Matt Kiernan said. “They played a really, really good game. We tried our best, playing a short bench all tournament long, playing two tough games after that, I think caught up to us.”
Rebecca Foggia, the tournament’s leading scorer with 12 goals, broke the shutout for New Jersey with a goal at 6:21. She brought the puck into the zone down the right side, cut across the slot and lifted a backhander past Karoline Winzer.
“We’re really proud with the way the girls came out and battled in the third period,” Kiernan said. “They showed their commitment level. They showed the type of players they are in that third period, being down 4-0 and coming back and working really, really hard trying to come back in that game.”
However, despite New Jersey ratcheting up their game, Elizabeth Emerson put the game away for Assabet with just under three minutes left.
“I thought our girls came out and executed our game like we asked them to,” DeMarco said. “They got the puck deep. They forechecked hard. We kept the pressure on them. As soon as we jumped out to an early lead, we continued our forecheck. And our kids were relentless. It worked out well for us.”
Shoebottom said of the win, “Its a great feeling. This is my first time on a team that had a chance to come to nationals. Doing it on your first year with a great team is awesome. It’s a feeling you can’t even describe.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
The Dorchester Chiefs won a hard-fought USA Hockey National Championship, beating the Hollydell Hurricanes 3-2 to win the Tier II 18 & Under Conference 4A title game on Sunday in Rochester, N.Y.
Dorchester was challenged throughout the National Tournament. Five of the Chiefs’ six games were decided by two goals or fewer. In fact, the only game with a comfortable margin was their tournament-opening 7-2 victory over Hollydell, which played Dorchester much closer in the rematch.
Dorchester built a 3-0 lead after two periods, then held on to survive a Hollydell rally. The Hurricanes scored twice in the final nine minutes, including a goal that cut the margin to one with 35.9 seconds remaining.
Dorchester killed four of five penalties in the final 10:22 and Chiefs goalie Sal Tecci stopped a half dozen shots in a furious final minute of play.
“That last minute,” said Tecci, shaking his head in disbelief. “The goal they got with 30 seconds left, I didn’t even see it. I was screened on the play.”
“Then, after that, they were just all over us,” continued Tecci. “I just did my best to stop everything. Then, with about five seconds left, someone had the puck and got wide open right in front of me. My heart just stopped. Somehow, I just managed to get a glove on it.”
“You’d much rather see the puck down at the other end, I’ll tell you that,” Dorchester coach Ross Pasquantonio said. “All of us were holding our collective breath on the bench, watching the clock. There’s nothing else you can do.”
“It’s typical of them, taking it to the last minute and putting everyone on edge,” Pasquantonio continued.
The game didn’t start off as a nail-biter. Dorchester scored twice in the first three minutes of the game and seemed on track to match their comfortable win over Hollydell in the tournament opener.
Mike Lopez started the scoring 1:32 into the game with a goal from Nick Bligh. It was Lopez’s fifth goal of Nationals. Combined with his team-leading eight assists, Lopez ended up as the leading scorer for the Chiefs. Bligh recorded his seventh assist of the tournament, good for second on Dorchester.
A minute and 18 seconds later, Joe Dipietro scored his first goal of Nationals, helped by Mike Sullivan’s first assist.
In the second period, Dipietro fed Sullivan to give Dorchester a 3-0 lead. It was Sullivan’s fifth goal and Dipietro’s second assist.
The offensive show was a surprise for Dorchester, who depended on a small group of players for most of the tournament.
“We basically played the whole tournament with two lines,” Pasquantonio said.
The Chiefs got 25 of their 28 goals from five players and 32 of their 40 assists from six.
Part of the reason the Chiefs went a little deeper into their bench in the title game was their late night in the semifinals.
“The game lasted until 12:30 (Saturday) night,” Tecci said. “We went to overtime. We didn’t get to bed until about 2:30.”
“It was just a lucky break that we didn’t get a 10 a.m. start today,” Pasquantonio said of the team’s 1 p.m. start, the last of the four championship games played on Sunday.
One area where Dorchester didn’t go deep into the depth chart was between the pipes. Tecci played every minute of all six games, making Dorchester the only team in the finals not to use their backup netminder at any point in the tournament.
“I was brought in to be the main goalie,” Tecci said with a shrug, “but yeah, I guess I’m pretty beat. I saw a lot of shots.”
Tecci stopped an eye-popping 190 shots, including 34 in the championship game.
“Sal was the backbone of our team,” Pasquantonio said. “We needed him in order to get where we are. He’s the best I’ve ever coached. He has a bright future.”
Hollydell made things interesting in the third period as Dorchester seemed to show signs of a tough six days of hockey. Mike Schwer scored with 8:40 remaining in the game for his first tally of the tournament. Christopher Carnivale assisted.
Kevin Kiehner added the goal in the final minute that set up the frantic ending. It was his first goal of Nationals. James Privito contributed his team-leading fifth assist.
Dorchester was unbeaten on their way to the title game. After beating Hollydell in the opener, they beat Mt. Clemens 4-2 and Clifton Park 6-4.
In the quarterfinals, Dorchester took out Team Toledo 6-4, then beat the Northwest Chargers in a marathon game Saturday night.
Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.