IRVINE, Calif. – The North Shore Vipers stepped onto the ice Friday afternoon looking to play the role of Giant killers. And for two periods the Massachusetts-based squad went toe to toe with the defending national champions. But taking down a giant proved to be a taller order than even they could have expected.
And despite giving the Minnesota champs all they could handle, the Vipers came out on the short end of a 4-2 decision.
The victory kept Green Giants unbeaten streak alive and left the Vipers facing a must-win game on Friday to keep their championship hopes alive in the 2019 Chipolte USA Hockey Girls Tier I 14U National Championship.
Competing in their first Nationals last year in Marlborough, Mass., the Green Giants became the first-ever national champion from Minnesota’s High Performance Tier I Leagues.
And now 3,000 miles and one year later, they look to be even better this time around.
After winning their opening game of the tournament, 15-0, against the Washington Pride, the Green Giants faced off against the gritty Vipers in what had all the makings of a street brawl. From the drop of the puck it was a battle for every inch of ice, as both sides traded blows in a nip and tuck affair.
“North Shore did an excellent job,” said Green Giants head coach Al Blomker. “Time and space was hard to come by out there. The Vipers did an excellent job of getting sticks in the lane and making things very tough on us.
“It was a scappy win, but we’ll take it.”
Madison Kaiser opened the scoring for the Green Giants with a short-handed tally before Lily Brazis brought the Vipers even with her second goal of the tournament. It took only 28 seconds for Kaiser put her team back on top until Ella Rago scored to close out the period in a tie.
Lily Mortenson would score what turned out to be the eventual game-winning goal when she burst around a Vipers defender and flicked a shot over a sprawling Devon Galizio. Sara Kaiser would add an insurance marker midway through the final frame.
After opening the tournament with a big win over the Buffalo Bison, the Vipers still find themselves in the driver’s seat as they face the winless Washington Pride on Friday morning.
But as head coach Tim Doyle told his players after the game, the playoffs start now.
“Every game from here on out is an elimination game,” Doyle said. “We know we can play with the best. Now it’s a matter of putting it all together.
“As I told my player, today was a snapshot of what Monday will look like. And we know that we definitely want to be there.”
East Coast Wizards 2, Anaheim Lady Ducks 1
Gwyn Lapp’s unassisted goal late in the second period snapped a 1-1 tie to lift the East Coast Wizards to victory. Megan Martodam’s goal earlier in period drew the Lady Ducks even but the hosts could do no more against Wizards goalie Ainsley Moulton.
Chicago Mission 3, Hartford Lady Wolfpack 1
Kelly Gorbatenko scored a pair of third-period goals to pace the Mission to their second straight victory and damage the playoff hopes for the Wolfpack. Molly Henderson also scored for the Mission, while Grace Puskar found the back of the net for Hartford.
Pittsburgh Pens Elite 4, San Jose Jr Sharks 0
The Pittsburgh Pens Elite used a stifling defense to shut down the San Jose Jr Sharks to improve their record to 2-0 with a dominating performance. Bella Vasseur’s power-play goal in the final minute of the opening period was more than enough offense for Ava McNaughton, who was rarely tested. Katherine Khramtsov and Jaildan Fahrny added second-period goals, and Vasseur added her second of the game, a short-handed tally, in the final frame.
Chicago Young Americans 5, Dallas Stars Elite 0
Julia Matyas stopped 17 shots and Courtney Schumacher led the way with a pair of goals for CYA. Madison Madden added a goal and an assist, and Great Knopp had a pair of helpers as the Chicago crew improved to 2-0.
Buffalo Bisons 7, Washington Pride 1
The Buffalo Bison needed a strong game to keep its playoff hopes alive and they got it thanks to a pair of goals from both Camryn Brownschidle and Lara Beecher. Things don’t get any easier tomorrow as the Bison face the defending champions, the MN Green Giants, in a must-win game.
Little Caesars 9, NJ Jr Titans 0
A day after Olivia Lumpiesz shut out Team North Dakota, Ava McIllmurray followed suit by turning aside all 13 shots she faced as Little Caesars punch their ticket to the quarterfinals. Cassie Hall paced the offensive attack with two goals and an assist, and Ava Stevenson added a goal and three assists.
Assabet Valley 9, Team North Dakota 0
Five second-period goals broke open a close game as Assabet Valley cruised to its second tournament victory. Sophia Ensley and Avery McInerny both notched hat tricks to pace the Big Red attack, and Avery Callison stopped 12 shots for the shutout.