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.