GATES MILLS, Ohio — Old habits may be hard to break but, if that habit is winning, why change?
Such is the case for the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite Girls 14U Tier I team that will once again be heading to the Chipotle-USA Hockey National Championships in Irvine, Calif. April 4-8 after defeating the Cleveland Lady Barons 3-0 in the USA Hockey Mid-American District Tournament final.
“I think we’ve been there every year I’ve been with them and that’s been five or six years and they may have been going before then,” said elated Penguins Elite coach Kate Binnie.
Special teams play was critical in the outcome for the Penguins after they went four-for-four in penalty killing, scored a power play goal and netted another goal one second after a power play had expired.
“Special teams were there today for sure,” Binnie said. “The kills were big. I leaned heavily on a few of our players; Jaidan Fahrny, Cornelia Nicholson and a couple other girls just stepped up. Laney Potter had a couple of nice big kills and our goaltender, Ava [McNaughton], was great.
“On the power play we got our chances. That was a hard-working goal and we wound up popping in a rebound and I think that broke things open for us. We settled down and played our game in the third period.”
Momentum seemed to switch from the Penguins to the Lady Barons midway through the opening period, but Binnie believed her team had some initial opportunities.
“We were out-skating them in the beginning, but we weren’t getting our chances, missing the net and things like that. We sort of went into a lull in the second period and they had a couple of power plays and had the momentum.”
Despite that second period lull, Pittsburgh’s Bella Vasseur tallied the Penguins’ first goal of the game with 4:03 remaining in the frame, one second after a Barons minor penalty had expired.
Dylan Green earned an assist on the Vasseur effort.
While the teams headed to the locker room for the second intermission, Binnie believed her team had a chance to prepare for a strong finish.
“I think our girls really refocused. I challenged them to get three goals for me and I think they got two for me in that third period. That was the game I wanted them to play from the start.”
Pittsburgh’s initial goal of the third period was a power play wrist shot from the right faceoff circle off the stick of Cecelia Messner and the second goal of the period was offered by Fahrny less than two minutes later.
Cecelia DesLauriers and Hannah Fetterolf were credited with assists on the special teams goal, while Alexis Jones and Katherine Khramstov earned helpers on the Fahrny goal.
McNaughton stopped all 25 shots she faced on her way to earning the shut-out victory.
“She was great,” said Binnie. “She didn’t get tested early, but when she did, she shut them down. She’s really good and she is going to square up every time. She has been really solid for us all year.”
As the team prepares to head to Irvine, for their shot at a national championship, Binnie is ready for her squad to make an impression at the event.
“Offensively we have some kids that can shoot the puck. Vasseur, Khramstov, and Fahrny have a lot of scoring potential. We have a couple of really young kids that have turned it up for us. Top to bottom I am happy with the lineup and I think we will do well in California.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.