IRVINE, Calif. – If Sophia Merageas has her way, she likes to start the game. Margaret Emerson has no problem coming in off the bench. Either way, the East Coast Wizards have created a winning formula when it comes to their talented goaltending tandem.
Through the first two games at the Chipolte USA Hockey Girls Tier I 19U National Championship, the Wizards have yielded only three goals in their two victories. They still have one game remaining against the Belle Tire, with the winner earning the top spot in the Liberty division heading into the quarterfinal round.
How far the Massachusetts-based team can go from there will depend in large part on how well their two-headed monster plays in net. And from head coach Scott Fusco’s perspective, either goalie has what it takes to help his team be successful.
“We’ve been rotating our goalies all season long and it’s been working,” Fusco said. “I leave it up to them as to who starts and who comes in. They like it that way. I just want them to stop the puck.”
Opening up play on Friday against the Dallas Stars Elite, Emerson was given the starting nod and looked sharp until tweaking her upper body while reaching for a rebound. Her only blemish was a first-period goal from Mika Jahnke.
Meanwhile, goals from Saarela Bryn and Mia Fusco provided more than enough cushion for Merageas, who came in early in the second period and slammed the door on any Dallas hopes of a comeback.
“Overall I thought we played pretty well but we had moments where we were a little inconsistent,” Fusco said after his team’s 6-1 victory.
“We had a good start and then played a pretty strong third period, but Dallas took it to us in the second. We were a little too soft with the puck, played with too much finesse and not enough grind. Fortunately we got back to our game in the third.”
That’s when Jamie Comeau and Mia Fusco scored 14 seconds apart to put the game out of reach. That was when Merageas stepped up to seal the deal.
As usual, Emerson was there to cheer her on from the bench. It’s part of the special bond they’ve created over the course of the season.
“I’ve been lucky to have such a great partner. I support her and she supports me. That’s the way it should be,” said Emerson, who is committed to play at Dartmouth College in 2020.
Fusco plans on sticking to the rotation, at least through the rest of the preliminary round. Once the tournament shifts to the elimination phase Fusco said things could change. But regardless of who gets the starting nod, he has faith in both of his goaltenders.
“It depends on who has the hot hand. If one of them is on, she’s going to stay in,” he said. “But we tell both of them to be prepared to play the whole game, or to be ready to come in off the bench.”
Like any proud athlete worth her competitive salt, both Emerson and Merageas want to be in the center of the action as the tournament heats up. But either way, they will remain each other’s biggest supporter.
“We both want to play but we both know that if one of us does well then the team does well,” Merageas said. “And that’s really what it’s all about.”
Chicago Mission 8, San Jose Jr Sharks 0
The Mission scored five goals in the first period and cruised to their second straight victory. Morgan Olson led the charge with two first-period goals, and Abbey Murphy pitched in with a pair of goals and added three assists.
CT Polar Bears 3, Team North Dakota 0
Katie Broccoli stopped all 14 shots she faced, and Jenny Guider and Avery Flynn netted second-period goals to snap a scoreless tie as the Polar improved to 2-0. Luisa Weicke added an insurance goal in the final frame. Through the first two games of the tournament, Broccoli has yet to yield a goal. The North Haven, Conn., native is committed to play at Providence College next season.
Belle Tire 7, Washington Pride 0
Anna Segedi scored a natural hat trick in the second period as part of a four-goal barrage that broke open a close game as Belle Tire improved to 2-0. Segedi, who is committed to play at St. Lawrence next season, added her fourth goal of the game in third period. Hannah Turnage stopped all shots she faced for Belle Tire, while Hannah Humphreys had a strong game in goal for the Pride, coming up with a 38-save effort.
Shattuck-St. Mary’s 12, Mid-Fairfield Stars 2
The defending national champs show no sign of slowing down their offensive juggernaut, scoring in double digits for the second time in two games. After a 10-0 explosion in the opener, Shattuck-St. Mary’s kept the ball rolling with a 12-2 victory over the Mid-Fairfield Stars. Hannah Bilka got things started with a natural hat trick in the first period, including two on the power play. Casey O’Brien also contributed a hat trick, her second of the tournament, and Grace Lee added a pair of goals as Shattuck peppered Mid-Fairfield goalie Meagan Miranda with 33 shots on goal. Jenna Donohue and Holley Riva found the back of the net for the Stars.
Detroit Honeybaked 3, Culver Academy 0
Clara Van Wieren had a goal and two assists to provide more than enough offense to support the stellar play in goal of Julie Maguire, who stopped 20 shots as Honeybaked rebounded from a tough loss in their tournament opener. Emily Stemple and Taryn Raisanen also scored for Honeybaked.
Rochester Youth Hockey 6, Anaheim Lady Ducks 5, OT
Emma Conner deflected a Mackenzie Emery shot from the point at the 1:32 mark of overtime to lift the Rochester Youth Hockey club to a dramatic victory over a spirited Anaheim Lady Ducks squad. Anaheim scored twice in the final frame to rally, including Marissa Gebauer’s power-play goal just 22 seconds after Kiara Zanon had given Rochester a short-lived lead. Ivy Boric added a pair of goals for the Lady Ducks, who were looking for their first win on home ice.
Boston Jr Eagles 6, NJ Colonials 2
Mary Edmonds goal early in the second period broke a 2-2 tie as the Boston Jr Eagles pulled away to win its second game of the tournament. The Eagles iced the game in the final frame with goals from Lauren DeBlois, Taze Thompson and Lilly Feeney. Still flying high after their opening day victory over Detroit Honeybaked, the Colonials jumped out to an early lead on goals from Caroline Goffredo and Emily Abruzzese.