WOODBRIDGE, Va. – Peter Townsend sensed his 14U Northern Virginia Ice Dogs were nervous in a loss to start the USA Hockey Girls Tier II Southeastern District Tournament.
“They’re generally a loose group,” Townsend said. “We just tried to remind them that they’re really good hockey players."
The Ice Dogs certainly looked the part in rebounding to beat the Florida Lady Vipers twice in a row and grab the title at the Prince William Ice Center. With Sunday’s 5-0 victory, the club clinched its first trip to nationals in the age group.
They’ll play for the 2017 USA Hockey Girls Tier II National Championship from April 6-10 in Troy, Michigan.
14U: Northern Virginia Ice Dogs
16U: Northern Virginia Ice Dogs
19U: Reston Raiders
The Ice Dogs couldn’t get anything going offensively in Saturday’s opener, a 1-0 setback. They started moving the puck better and reaping the results after that.
Rachel Clarke scored twice in the 6-2 win later Saturday that forced a winner-take-all third game in the series. Sara Burr had a hat trick in Sunday’s convincing handling of the Vipers. Rachel Hinkley made 13 stops in net to record the shutout.
Now the Ice Dogs will get a chance to see how they stack up on the national stage.
“We’ve played some of the teams that are going to be there,” Townsend said. “Skating is going to be a big key for us. Strong D. Strong goaltending. Just doing a good job with a lot of the little things we always talk about.”
Abigail Crittenden had a hat trick and Emma Vinal scored twice to power the Ice Dogs to a repeat 16U title with a 5-2 win over the Florida Lady Vipers.
This group left little doubt, outscoring its opponents 16-6 in three tournament victories. The Ice Dogs took charge early in the final, scoring all their goals in the opening 23 minutes.
Madison Novotny and Dana Fragomeni provided third-period goals for the Lady Vipers, but it wasn’t near enough to overcome the sluggish start.
“We knew what was at stake, and this team really wanted it,” Ice Dogs coach Chris Battles said.
The Ice Dogs are headed back to nationals at 16U, but it will be the first trip for most of the squad. Defender Kate Danziger and goalie Sydney Stropes are the only holdovers from last season’s district champions. The rest moved up from a talented 14U team that came up a win short of nationals in 2016.
“It’s definitely really exciting,” Danziger said. “The first time we didn’t really know what to expect. Now we’re going in really confident.”
The Ice Dogs clinched their two titles just minutes apart and then brought everyone together for a group photo to remember the moment.
The championships marked more progress for the growing club based out of Alexandria, Virginia. It was not that long ago it struggled to find enough interest for one girls team. Now, it has seven and two headed to nationals.
“For sure, there’s a lot of excitement,” said Townsend, the girls director of the Ice Dogs.
Last year, the 16U Ice Dogs became the club’s first girls team to play at the national tournament. That group held its own but didn’t advance out of pool play. They’ll have two chances to make that next step this time.
The club still faces challenges to find ice time. It utilizes a handful of facilities around the Washington, D.C. region for practice and several teams will often share the same sheet.
The recent success has boosted the club’s profile, though. It’s much easier to get games with more established outfits in Pennsylvania and New York now.
“It used to be an email here and an email there,” Townsend said. “Now it’s multiple emails a week asking if we’re free for a weekend or if we can fill a last spot in a tournament.”
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 30-April 3, 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|