Last year was an eye-opening experience for the Anchorage North Stars Tier II 14U girls’ hockey players.
They competed at the USA Hockey Girls Tier-II National Championship, and as the top seed out of their pool, lost abruptly in the quarterfinals.
The girls got a taste of the big stage, but it left them wanting more. This year, about three-quarters of those players moved up to the North Stars Tier II 16U squad. The girls will get a shot at redemption.
Anchorage won the Pacific District girls tournament on March 5 to qualify for the 2017 USA Hockey Girls Tier-II National Championship in Troy, Michigan, on April 6-10.
“I think there were some good lessons learned last year at nationals,” said North Stars 16U coach Rick Trupp, who coached the 14U team last year. “We had some very tough games. We lost in overtime to advance, and so when you have those situations they’re always good learning experiences and hopefully they bring that into nationals this year to skate a little harder.”
That quarterfinal loss at nationals — after going undefeated in pool play — was a heartbreaking, 1-0 overtime loss to eventual runner-up, the Bruins.
Getting back to nationals was what the North Stars set out to do at the beginning of the season. For the girls to accomplish that goal is certainly special.
“They’re really excited,” Trupp said. “There’s not too many times in a player’s career they get to go to nationals, and so they’re pretty excited to have that opportunity again. They’re hopeful they can be well prepared to meet the challenges that are out there.”
The North Stars (13-11-11) opened up round-robin play in the district tournament in Anaheim, California, by taking on a familiar foe in the Palmer Lady Pioneers. The two Alaskan teams faced off about a dozen times this season, so there weren’t any surprises.
“All year long we’ve played them to either a tie or a one-goal game, so we were pretty even,” Trupp said.
Anchorage fell to Palmer, 1-0. The North Stars rebounded nicely by downing the Anaheim Ducks 2-0, San Jose Sharks 7-2 and the Alaska All-Stars 4-0.
In the five-team district, the top two teams automatically qualify to play in the championship game, so lo and behold, Anchorage and Palmer squared off again. This time it was for the district title.
The game was tied 1-1 with two minutes remaining in the third period when the North Stars’ Tristin Stetson buried a rebound in front of the net for the go-ahead goal.
“They were pretty pumped, almost too pumped,” Trupp said. “Our next shift was chaos. They were too excited and they forgot about playing the game and Palmer almost scored.”
After a timeout to regroup, the North Stars tallied an empty-net goal with about 20 seconds remaining to seal another trip to nationals.
Trupp was proud of the way his girls played the entire tournament.
“The thing that we worry about is winning periods of hockey and we only lost one period of hockey, so overall as a team we played well,” Trupp said.
Trupp’s daughter, Kiana, registered a team-high five goals in the tournament.
Just like in the district tournament, the North Stars have relied on their tough defense all season.
“We keep our goals against down; we have solid goaltending,” coach Trupp said. “We have some offensive flare, but we don’t score as many goals as we like most times. But we have a fairly good skating team that likes to pressure the puck.”
Anchorage has two strong goalies, second-year player Gabi Gibson and first-year player McKinley Hoff. Both girls have stopped about 94 percent of the shots they’ve faced and have goals against averages in the low twos.
Strong defensemen in front the net have also been a key component all season.
“All our defensemen are pretty steady and interchangeable,” Trupp said. “We only have one second-year defenseman, the other five are first years.”
Offensively, forwards Allie Monrean and Ally Green are the top two scorers on the North Stars.
Trupp said his girls are playing well right now heading into nationals.
“I think some of their success recently has been working hard and they’re not panicking during the game, during situations,” Trupp said. “Either down or up, they’re continuing to play the game under control and without letting their emotions get away from them. I think that’s the biggest thing we’ve been kind of working with them on, and they’ve been doing that and not getting too rattled.”
Another reason the team is playing its best at the moment is because it’s a close-knit group of girls.
“The core group of them have been together for probably six to eight years,” Trupp said. “Even though Anchorage is a bigger community, the girls’ program is growing year by year. This group has kind of stayed together as a core in the same association and kind of moved up. Every year there are a few others, depending on birth year, that join us. This is the strongest team we’ve had.
“We’re excited about the opportunity for a good showing at nationals.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
|Youth Tier I (14U)||Scottsdale, Arizona||Arizona Amateur Hockey||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier I (15-year-olds only)||Scottsdale, Arizona||Arizona Amateur Hockey||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier I (16U, 18U)||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania||Pittsburgh Penguins Elite||April 6-10, 2017|
|Girls Tier I||Rochester/Macomb, Michigan||HoneyBaked Hockey Club||April 6-10, 2017|
|Women's A, B, C||Rochester/Macomb, Michigan||HoneyBaked Hockey Club||April 6-9, 2017|
|High School||Cleveland, Ohio||Cleveland Suburban Hockey||March 22-26, 2017|
|Girls Tier II||Troy, Michigan||Troy Youth Hockey Association||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier II (14U)||Coral Springs, Florida||Florida Panthers Ice Den||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier II (16U)||Frisco, Texas||Texas Amateur Hockey||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier II (18U)||Lansing, Michigan||Lansing Hockey Club||April 6-10, 2017|
|Sled||San Jose, California||Sharks Ice||April 6-9, 2017|
|Adult Rec Men's||Wesley Chapel, Florida||Florida Hospital Center Ice||April 20-23, 2017|
|Adult Rec Women's||Ellenton, Florida||Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex||April 27-30, 2017|