WOODBRIDGE, Va. – At the horn, Gabrielle Henry could finally relax. The 19U Reston Raiders goalie had spent much of the USA Hockey Southeastern District championship — and the entire tournament, really — under siege.
Henry turned back 32 shots Sunday in a 3-2 win over the Northern Virginia Ice Dogs at the Prince William Ice Center to claim the title and a spot in next month’s USA Hockey Girls Tier II National Championships in Troy, Michigan. All weekend, she handled the pressure. By the end, she’d earned her spot at the bottom of a celebratory pile.
Behind Henry, Reston swept through the district tournament unbeaten in four games. Their road included a shootout win and an overtime victory before Sunday’s white-knuckle final in which Emily Lichtenberg’s goal with 4 minutes, 21 seconds left provided the difference.
The Raiders found a way to hold off the Ice Dogs, despite being outshot 34-8.
“We all do a really good job of keeping a cool head, even when we’re all stressed out,” Henry said. “I know sometimes I’m like shaking in the net, but I keep telling myself to breathe and it’s going to be OK.”
Coach Andrew Kucinich has a battle-tested group. The Raiders fell in the district championship last March to the Florida Lady Vipers. Memories of that 2-0 loss have provided ready motivation this time around.
Entering the tournament, the veterans felt the urgency to at last break through to the national stage. The string of thrillers on a rink close to home only pushed those emotions up another notch.
“I’d like to take care of it before the wire, preferably way ahead of the wire,” Kucinich said. “It’s just something we’ve done a lot, and they’ve gotten used to it, which scares me, but they know how to play under pressure.”
Indeed, each win seemed more difficult than the last. After beating the Potomac Lady Patriots 4-1 in their Friday opener, the Raiders had to fight to the finish in the rest.
Lichtenberg scored 20 seconds into overtime Saturday to top Nashville, 4-3. Then, Henry held strong in the shootout in the first meeting with the Ice Dogs for a 2-1 victory.
Sunday’s winner-take-all final provided even more drama. The Raiders went up 2-0 in the second period on goals by Julia Kochman and Maggie Shi and then nearly let it slip away. The Ice Dogs tied it at 2 when Auguste Burke stuffed home a rebound with 7:01 left in the game.
Reston hadn’t managed a shot in the period to that point. It turned out the Raiders only needed one.
Three minutes later, Lichtenberg snuck behind the defense and finished the breakaway.
“I thought [the trailing defender] was going to come up and take it from me,” said Lichtenberg, who led the Raiders with four goals on the weekend. “I just tried to rip it as hard as I could as quick as I could.”
That was enough for Henry, who fended off at least nine shots in every period. There were a few more harrowing sequences, though. Northern Virginia’s best chance late came with about 90 seconds left: She blocked a blistering low drive and then pounced to smother the rebound.
Soon the Raiders were rushing to dive on Henry and start the party. It was the scene she’d been waiting for since joining the club before last season.
“It was nerve-wracking, but I had faith,” Henry said. “I had a good feeling about this game.”
Next, the Raiders will try to put their best foot forward at nationals starting April 6. Though the stage will be new, they’ve got plenty of practice dealing with the tense moments that await them.
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|