BURLINGTON, Vt. -- The East Coast Wizards displayed speed and offense to spare when they faced off against the defensively-minded and upset hopeful Chicago Bruins in Monday’s title game of the Toyota-USA Hockey Girls 14U Tier II National Championships.
Using a two-goalie tandem that swapped time in the net more than once every period, the result was a dominant yet slim 2-1 victory for the Wizards out of Bedford, Massachusetts.
The Wizards were coming off a big test at the hands of the Potsdam Ice Storm. Chicago, which kept improving as the tourney wore on, advanced by defeating the Casco Bay (Maine) Islanders.
The Wizard goals were scored by Paige Larose on a first-period power play with an assist from Rachel Shu and a second period goal by Emma Watson, assisted by Lilianna Zavolas.
Megan McCormick broke up the Wizards’ shutout with 14 seconds left in the game.
McCormick was a key part of Bruins’ coach Tom Boyles desire to have his team play strong defensively. She contributed to the Bruins penalty kills and overall defense along with Kennedy O’Brien, Madison Zack, Caroline Smith, Sophie Johnson and Megan Novak.
Novak, at 6-foot-2 with a reach to match, was particularly an obstacle for would-be Wizard scorers, who nonetheless managed to pepper Bruin goalie Samantha Steciak.
Felicia Zuccola fired the first Wizard shot on goal a minute into the contest. Isabelle Allieri blew in on left wing for shot number two 30 seconds later. Paige Larose got freed up for a shot on net in the next minute, and so it went.
McCormick gamely blocked a bid by Taylor Girouard after a Chicago turnover deep in the zone to keep the game scoreless, but Chicago was having trouble getting to the net despite some solid forechecking by Lindsey Gulliksen.
Coach Boyles was imploring his team to “throw the puck at the net every chance you get.”
Just before Chicago committed its first penalty, East Coast came close to getting on the board. Sarah Coyle fed Watson for a strong shot and on the next shift, Christina Vote launched a hard shot that Steciak snagged at the last possible instant.
Chicago drew a tripping penalty, setting up another power play during which Steciak made four saves before the Wizards struck gold.
“We’re a young team, mostly 13-year-olds”, coach Boyle said. “We want to play strong defensively and force teams to the outside of the rink. “We’ve been overachieving. The team’s really come together in this tournament and it’s been enjoyable to be a part of it.”
When it came to chasing down pucks in open space, the Wizards excelled. And when needed, they displayed good penalty killing as well from the likes of Watson, Zuccola, Mia Biotti, Shannon Burke and Zavolas.
“They were on a mission,” head coach Mike Girouard said. “Relentless — that’s our word for it. We don’t have names on our jerseys and we don’t have any captains. We consider every goal a team goal. There are so many little things that lead to getting the puck in the net.”
Girouard explained the team’s “now you see them, now you don’t” goalie strategy, using both Sarah Potter and Daisy Boynton.
“The scoring officials were going nuts trying to track their minutes,” he said with a grin. “At first, three years ago, we would monitor them. Now they just alternate every three or four minutes on their own. I don’t even know who’s in there half the time. They make it work.”
Girouard was helped out this season on the way to the 2016 national championship by assistants Jon Biotti, Guy Larose, Michael Bayard and Manager Melissa Zuccola.
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.