IRVINE, Calif. – For 51 minutes the Connecticut Polar Bears and Buffalo Regals played like their hockey lives depended on it. And in a way it did.
After suffering tough opening day losses, both teams desperately needed the three points that came with a regulation time win to keep their playoff hopes alive. And when regulation time wasn’t enough to settle the score, they scratched and clawed for an additional five minutes in overtime.
With only a minute remaining in the extra session, Abby Ruggiero poked home Ellie Schau’s shot through the legs of Polar Bears goaltender Grace Caligiuri to lift the Regals to a 2-1 gut-check victory to keep their slim hopes alive in the 16U division at the 2019 Chipolte-USA Hockey Girls Tier I National Championships.
The win gives the Regals a glimmer of hope heading into their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite. They need to notch a win in regulation and then hope for the Polar Bears to stage a minor upset against 5th seeded Shattuck-St. Mary’s.
“We’re going to be the biggest fans of the Polar Bears tomorrow,” said Regals head coach Tom Ruggiero.
It all comes down to this at the end of a 60-plus game season that has seen more highs than lows for the at-large team from upstate New York.
Along the way they have played one of the toughest schedules in the country, which is paying dividends here at Nationals. Despite suffering a tough loss to Shattuck, Ruggiero was proud of the way his team has played this week.
“These girls work harder than any team I’ve ever coached,” Ruggiero said. “They grind and never give up.”
Autumn Mish tipped Rebecca Holmes point shot to stake the Regals to a lead late in the first period.
The Polar Bears knotted the score in the second period when Mia Wendell couldn’t corral Kelly Howe’s high shot and Teaghan Hall was there to poke in the rebound.
The score remained that way through an intense third period and overtime period and seemed destined for a shootout when Ruggiero saved the Regals season.
Bay State Breakers 4, Mid-Fairfield Stars 3
Abby Newhook converted a pass from Katie Pyne midway through the final period to snap a 3-3 tie and lift the Bay State Breakers to victory. Pyne added a pair of goals to pace the Massachusetts squad. Hamilton Doster paced Mid-Fairfield with a pair of goals and added an assist on a goal from Caroline Appleyard.
Rochester Youth Hockey 4, Dallas Stars Elite 2
Laila Edwards scored a pair of power-play goals and set up Sydney Wegner for another goal as Rochester upped their record to 2-0. Bailey Callaway stopped 28 shots, surrendering goals to Erika Shirer and Lily Martinson for the winless Stars.
Pittsburgh Pens Elite 2, Shattuck-St. Mary’s 1
Ellie Marcovsky scored a short-handed goal to snap a 1-1 tie to lead the Pens Elite to their second straight win. Eva Dorr tipped a point shot from Faith Anthony to erase an early Shattuck lead, and Sophie Bellina weathered a late surge during a 26-save effort. Hannah Rodgers had the only tally for Shattuck.
Philadelphia Jr Flyers 7, Washington Pride 3
Three short-handed goals in the second period powered the Jr. Flyers to victory over the winless Pride. Makayla Javier scored a pair of goals in the final frame to help the Atlantic District representatives pull away. Ava Rinker added a pair of goals, and Grace Dwyer pitched in with three assists.
East Coast Wizards 5, Anaheim Lady Ducks 1
Isabelle Allieri scored a pair of goals, and Christina Vote and Mia Biotti had three-point nights to pace the East Coast Wizards to victory. Abby Matusovich stopping 18 shots, giving up only a second-period power-play goal to the Lady Ducks’ Callie Wollschlager.
MN Elite Gray 3, Boston Jr Eagles 0
Lacey Martin scored the first of her two goals to snap a scoreless tie midway through the second period to lift Minnesotans to victory. Skylar Vetter, who helped backstop the U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team to a silver medal at the 2019 IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship, stopped 14 shots to earn the shutout. Vivian Jungles added a late power-play goal to seal the win.
Chicago Mission 3, Belle Tire 1
Veronica Bac scored a pair of goals as part of a three-goal third period outburst and the Chicago Mission rallied to beat their Midwest rival. Grace Garby’s goal in the second period had given Belle Tire the lead before the Mission kicked it into gear in the final frame. Emma Thomas converted a pass from Clara Zubor for the eventual game winner before Bac put the game away with an empty-net goal in the final minute.