With one team defending a national title and four others joining in the pursuit, the East Coast Wizards program from Bedford, Massachusetts, will be busy during the Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls National Championships from April 4-8.
The Wizards will have teams at all three age levels in Tier I at Irvine, California. Additionally, they will have teams at 19U and 16U in Tier II in Amherst, New York.
The 19U Tier II Wizards team is the defending national champion and is one of four East Coast teams that made it to nationals by winning Massachusetts District titles. The 19U Tier I team was awarded an at-large berth.
The path to the state title was not an easy one for the Tier II defending champions.
East Coast went 2-1 to finish second of six teams in its pool where the top four advance into the quarterfinals. Once there, the Wizards shutout two of three opponents, including a 1-0 win over the Boston Junior Eagles, who had been 5-0 in the tournament.
Sophia Whittaker’s second-period goal, on assists from Claire Murphy and Brett Stoddard, accounted for all the scoring.
Whittaker knows a little something about scoring goals in big games. Her power-play goal opened the scoring last season in a 3-1 national championship game victory over the San Jose Jr. Sharks, close to home in Marlborough, Massachusetts.
Stoddard, who will play NCAA Div. III hockey at Bowdoin College in Maine, is another of the returnees from the championship team.
Julia Masotta led the team with four goals and three assists in the district tournament. Lauren Reenstierna, another of the returning players, had four goals and two assists. Rylee Glennon and Maddie Nelson are also back.
The 19U Tier II team won nine of their last 10 games with the exception being the 2-1 pool play loss to the Massachusetts Spitfires.
Program founder and two-time U.S. Olympian Scott Fusco said the two 19U teams have a similar look. He coaches the 19U Tier I team, which received an at-large bid.
Fusco’s Tier I 19U team includes Harvard commit Lily Farden, a member of the 2018 Under-18 Women’s National Team that took home gold at the 2018 IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship. It also features players committed to Providence, Boston College, Dartmouth, Boston University, Northeastern and Holy Cross and several strong Div. III programs in the northeast.
“This team has a lot of depth and a lot of speed up front,” Fusco said. “When we can play in 5-on-5 situations, we can put a lot of pressure on teams and play at a very high pace.”
Fusco said that since March 1, the 16U and 19U teams have been practicing and all the players have been in, but with spring vacation time in the mix, they have not always been able to work with full rosters.
The teams are wrapping up March by scrimmaging each other to try to get ready for nationals.
The 14U team is the only one that plays a winter schedule, but the players also compete in high school hockey.
The only girls national tournament where the Wizards are not represented this year is 14U Tier II, where they finished second last season.
Abigail Weiss, Anna Liu, Mckenzie Cerrato and Grace Crowley from that team on are the 16U Tier II team that opened the Massachusetts District with four straight shutouts, winning by a total of 24 goals before back-to-back, 2-1 victories over Assabet Valley and the Bay State Breakers.
Delaney Williams led the attack with seven goals and five assists in the state tournament while Olivia Tully had three goals and six assists.
“They’re a strong defensive team and they skate well,” said Fusco, a Hobey Baker Award winner at Harvard who played on the 1984 and 1988 U.S. Olympic Teams.
The 16U Tier I team went 4-1 in its district tournament with three of the wins, including the semifinals and finals, coming by 1-0 margins. The championship game victory avenged a 4-1 pool play loss to the Boston Jr. Eagles, who were unbeaten in the tournament to that point.
“The 16 Tier I team had a great fall,” Fusco said. “The 16U level in Massachusetts was very tight with four very strong teams, so winning the state tournament was tough. It was a great accomplishment.”
So far, all four teams have accomplished getting to the national championships. Now, the goal turns to competing against some of the nation’s top programs.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.