TAYLOR, Mich. — As soon as the final horn sounded and the clock hit all zeros, the 16U Belle Tire Hockey Club team screamed and frantically skated on to the ice.
The girls had just won the USA Hockey Michigan District Girls Tier I title, beating Little Caesars 3-0 Sunday at the Taylor Sportsplex in Taylor, Michigan. After falling to Little Caesars 1-0 in overtime that morning, Belle Tire rebounded to win and advance to the 2019 Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier I 16U National Championships April 4-8 in Irvine, California.
“It was amazing,” said defender Anabelle Scriver, who scored Belle Tire’s first goal 1:28 into the second period. “It was my first [district tournament] ever, so it was a really big deal for me. And I got really emotional.”
Other than scoring the first goal of the game, Scriver said it was emotional because of the type of season Belle Tire is having, one that’s had some “up-and-downs.”
“That’s kind of how our team works,” Scriver said. “We have the little bumps in the road during practices or single games. But overall, we bring it together and get it done when it needs to be.”
The reason for that is because of consistency issues throughout the season, coach Dave Erwin said. But, Erwin said when his team does get on a roll, it can lead the team to more than just a district championship.
“I think they’re a team that can go to nationals now and do some damage,” he said. “They’ve played against the best teams, competed well against them.”
And because of having a competitive schedule and good goaltending from Jillian Petruno — who had two shutouts throughout the playoffs — it allowed Belle Tire to be ready to compete and win the district title, Erwin said.
“Our kids showed a lot of poise this weekend,” Erwin said. “We have good goaltending, so that helps you feel a little bit more relaxed when you know you have good goaltending.”
But Scriver said Belle Tire was anything but relaxed on Sunday, even when she scored the first goal of the game to give Belle Tire a 1-0 lead.
Instead, after forward Lily Wisniewski netted the first of two empty net goals 14:58 into the third period, Belle Tire got more nervous.
“A 2-0 lead is the worst lead you could have,” Scriver said. “There were a lot of opportunities for them to get a puck in, too.”
Then 16:17 into the third period, forward Celesta Paolucci scored the second empty net goal to give Belle Tire the final 3-0 win.
The win was the result of persevering through an up-and-down season, and ended in embracing each other for an hour following the post-game award ceremony — including music blasting and constant cheering in the locker room.
“If you heard us in the locker room, everyone was for sure trying to help everyone, and we were all trying to figure out ways to turn it into a win,” Scriver said. “It’s pretty amazing.”
And something like this, Erwin said, brings a team together, especially after Belle Tire made the finals in its last two tournaments before the state playoffs and winning its most recent one, the Detroit Elite Girls Invitational on Feb. 3.
“This team is just coming together,” Erwin said. “Hopefully we’re peaking at the right time here, and we got a good month of practice so we can go out there in California and do some damage.”
But for Erwin and his coaching staff, it’s also an opportunity for them to teach his team how to handle these type of situations — not only in hockey, but in life.
“Just getting them to understand, when you play the game the right way and you do the right things, you’re going to have success,” Erwin said. “And hopefully that leads to better things for them beyond hockey. That’s what I’m most happy about. Just buying in, doing what it took to win and hopefully they can take that as they move through [life].”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.