BURLINGTON, Vt. -- The East Coast Wizards started their week off on a high note.
Beginning at 8 a.m. Monday, the Massachusetts team beat the Alaska All Stars 2-1 in the 16U title game at the Toyota-USA Hockey Girls Tier II National Championships in Burlington, Vermont.
Prior to the opening faceoff, coach Mark Lissner was asked what he had to do to get his team ready for an early morning national championship game after a pair of games the day before.
“Not much,” Lissner shrugged. “If they can’t get up for this one, there’s a problem.”
The All Stars, strong and determined, were a problem for two periods, but the Wizards picked up the pace in the third period and withstood two late penalties to emerge as national champions.
The Wizards’ Alisa Canney of Burlington, Massachusetts, scored the game-winner, with Rachael DiFraia and Jill Mercer assisting.
East Coast had been picking up speed shift to shift as Alaska tried in vain to pack it in and hunker down.
“On that line, Alisa was centering for two converted defensemen,” Lissner said. “They were never scored upon throughout the tournament. For them to get the game-winner is great.”
The Wizards got on the board first when Kate Shaughnessey scored in the first period. She spun around to open up her forehand, stepped to the net and scored into the top corner. Nicole Amato got the assist.
Alaska’s tied it up with 4:10 left in the period. Jaden Trboyevich came around the net and shot the puck off an East Coast player into the net past goalie Caroline Kukas.
The game remained deadlocked through two, and then Canney gave the Wizards a lead in the third. East Coast faithful got a charge when “Sweet Caroline” began playing over the sound system with three minutes remaining in the game and the Wizards ahead. Fans broke into boisterous song to cheer on their goalie.
Kukas had made a difficult save in the opening minutes when she reached back and got to the puck as it was about to slide over the line. She also handled another potentially dangerous chance 10 minutes later when she snagged a “skipping rock” puck in traffic.
Alaska goalie Emilia Helms-Leslie of Fairbanks more than held her own on the other end of the ice. She robbed Ali Stevens with a glove save at the edge of the blue ice on the power play in the second period and followed that with two more big stops on the same power play.
Helms-Leslie responded when Stevens reached a rebound off her mask and snuffed out her shot. With 25 seconds left in the man advantage Helms-Leslie flagged down a rocket from the point. She finished with 42 saves.
Play was halted in the second period to attend to Alaska’s Elly Whitmore, who went down after tripping over Kukas’ stick when she came out to angle off a break-in attempt.
Earlier, Alaska had an apparent goal nullified. The All Stars’ Olivia Matson sent the puck at the net from the top of the slot, and Madeline Millar raised her arms and stick and put a deflection past Kukas. A high stick violation left the goal off the scoreboard.
Strong penalty killing by Alaska’s Jade Pandres, Mattson, Ally Hull and Stella Olnes helped the All Stars.
In the final four minutes, DiFraia took the puck off an Alaskan stick twice under pressure, as did defenseman Leslie Schwartz.
“I thought we played kind of tight for two periods, and then we took over,” DeFraia, who plays for Melrose High School, said.
“Rachel and Emily Smith have been with me for two national championships and a national final,” Lissner said, adding that he thought the tournament performance of Kukas and Kelly Lavelle “was phenomenal.”
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.