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.
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Two months from now, the St. Louis Blues hope to experience the thrill of winning the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time.
What happened Sunday for the Chesterfield Falcons is the equivalent of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup for an 18-year-old. Bringing another youth hockey championship to this St. Louis suburb never gets old.
The Falcons scored a late third-period goal to widen its advantage and beat the Florida Junior Panthers 3-1 in the USA Hockey Tier IIAA 18-and-Under National Championships title game at Suburban Ice Arena. The game was one of three championship matches played here on Sunday as part of the Tier II 18U championships.
It was the third time in five years that Chesterfield, which is the top-ranked 18U program in the country regardless of class or conference, won a national championship at the 18U level. All of the titles have happened in even-numbered years (2008, 2010 and this year).
[y tii 18 2a champs] “This team is typically about 90 percent new every year, maybe with four or five returning players,” Chesterfield coach Lindsay Middlebrook said. “It takes a little pressure off of having to repeat given we seem to win it every other year.”
All kidding aside, Middlebrook said the secret to the team has been how well the team has come together.
“We’ve been in one of the best Double-A hockey leagues now [Central States] for five or six years, and this year we had a really good team,” he said.
Chesterfield shut out the West Haven (Conn.) Blue Devils 6-0 in the first game before losing 2-1 to Florida in the second game of pool play. The Falcons then beat the Tri-Cities (Wash.) Junior Americans 6-1 in the final pool game before blasting the Mission (Ariz.) Ice 9-2 in the quarterfinals and edging the Richmond (Mo.) Royals 4-3 in the semifinals.
It was that loss to Florida that stuck with Nicholas Fontana. He thought about that loss as he notched the late third-period goal, off a pass from Jacob Kaufman and Nicolas Brocksmith. The shot just eluded the stick of Florida goalie Austin Luboff.
“Earlier in the year we beat Florida in two games but we lost to them here,” Fontana said. “We knew coming in that they’d play us hard, and we knew we had a big bench and could go deeper into the lineup than they could. We ended up shutting them down.”
The shot was in a perfect position for Fontana.
“I was on a long shift, and I was forechecking and I saw the puck come around the boards and I thought I’d dump it off to a teammate,” Fontana said. “Then I was already down there so I figured I might as well take the shot. We’ve talked about getting in front of the net and screening the goalie so we could get a shot, and I just had the chance.”
Florida started with a 2-1 overtime win over the South Central (Alaska) Wolves, beat Chesterfield and the Pro Ambitions Nashua (N.H.) Panther Elites 3-1 in the next pool games, and then topped Team Michiana 4-2 in quarterfinal action. In the final four Florida needed overtime for a 3-2 win over the Metro Maple Leafs.
The majority of the Florida team has not been together for years. That said, Florida coach Dana Bengston said the players did a good job of meshing together in a short time.
“As a team we got an at-large bid and we were invited to the tournament because of what we had done during the regular season,” Bengston said. “To come here as an invite to the tournament and make it to the finals… against the number one team in the country… we managed to beat the top team in round robin and it was a close game. For our kids to compete and beat them once shows a lot for the character of this team.
“These are kids who have chosen to stay in Florida and are involved in other things yet still want to play some hockey.”
Florida lost to the Junior Everblades in the state finals. The Everblades were eliminated in pool play and did not reach the quarterfinals.
Prior to Fontana’s late goal, Florida took a 1-0 lead with 5:39 to go in the first period on a Freddy Kasten power-play goal, with the assist provided by Bryan Kubota.
Chesterfield tied the score at 1-1 on a goal by Mark Jones, with assists by Wilder Politte and Jacob Kaufman, with 2:17 to go in the second period.
The score stayed tied until the third period. With 8:17 remaining Daniel Warnecke scored off assists by Nicholas Walters and Callahan Heimos, and Fontana tacked on the insurance marker.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.