LANSING, Mich. -- It was only fitting that the Toyota-USA Hockey Girls Tier II 19U National Championships title game between the Portland Junior Pirates and East Coast Wizards would end in a 2-1 score.
That was the score of the Monday’s previous two national championship games at Suburban Ice, as the Assabet Red won the 14U crown over the Amherst Knights and the East Coast Wizards took 16U gold over Team Alaska.
In the day’s finale, the Maine-based Junior Pirates took a 2-0 lead during the second period and then held on after the Wizards made it 2-1 in the final minute of that stanza.
Portland coach Kent Hulst, a former Toronto Maple Leafs’ draft pick and longtime AHL player in Portland, said winning the championship against a tough team like the Wizards was no easy task.
“I’ve coached against Kevin [Potter, the Wizards’ assistant coach] before, and we know what teams each other has and today was a battle,” Hulst said. “I think both teams came out with jitters and then we were fortunate enough to get a couple bounces and hang on towards the end with some big saves [from goaltender Paige Fontaine, 20 saves in the game] and timely face-offs.”
Aimely Michaud-Nolan started the scoring for the Junior Pirates at 9:15 of the second period before Danita Storey made it 2-0 at 15:45.
The Wizards’ Nicole Saber cut the lead to 2-1 with 24 seconds left in the second period, but that would be all the scoring the game would see the rest of the way.
“We’ve had a few times during the year where we have got into some situations where the girls didn’t really know how to react,” Hulst said. “We just told them [in the third period] to control your emotions, play to the whistle, play to the buzzer, and if you do that, good things will happen. I think it helped us early in the year to get to this point when we were under a lot of pressure to get here and to win a championship.
“We have a pretty focused group of girls, and I’ve had a lot of these girls for many years coaching and they know what I want. Everything just came together this year with this team.”
Wizards’ coach Gerry Wright had his team with their heads held high after the game, saying there was no reason to be sullen and downtrodden.
“The girls played hard on both teams and we played them before and lost 4-1, but the girls [today] kept pressing, kept trying and that Maine team is a great team,” Wright said. “They play great team defense and they got the puck forward and they’re a deserving champion.”
Wright added that after Saber’s goal, there was a sense of urgency on the bench and in the Wizards’ locker room.
“That was a huge goal for us,” Wright said. “It allowed us to come out for the third period and start really strong, but Maine did a great job holding us off and our girls never stopped pushing to get the last goal, even down to the final minute.”
The Wizards pulled goaltender Caroline Kent (21 saves) with 24 seconds left, but could not find the equalizer.
“To get here and win after getting to some regionals and losing, it’s fun and I’m very happy for the group of girls and the parents who put in the time and effort throughout the year and also to get to this point,” Hulst said. “And to reward them with a win is a great way to finish our season.”
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.