IRVINE, Calif. – Anyone who thinks girls hockey is sugar and spice and everything nice has never seen the Little Caesars and Assabet Valley programs in action.
A clash of these two powerhouse programs had all the speed and ferocity of a Daytona 500 collision with Little Caesars coming out on top with a dominating 7-3 victory to win the Olympic division at the 2019 Chipolte-USA Hockey Girls Tier I 14U National Championships.
With both teams already punching their tickets forward after a pair of earlier wins in the tournament, Friday’s game was about bragging rights and their placement in the standings.
“It’s always a good test whenever you play Assabet because they’re such a great team,” said Little Caesars head coach Joe Joseph. “They’re probably the most physical team we’ve played this year and definitely gave us all we can handle.”
Neither team had surrendered a goal, having shut out common opponents in Team North Dakota and the NJ Jr Titans. That shutout streak lasted until the 12:30 of the first period as Cassie Hall tipped a high shot from Kaia Malachino.
“We don’t get caught up in what’s happened in previous games because this is youth hockey and you never know from one day to the next how a team is going to play,” Joseph said. “What’s more important is how a goalie responds after giving up that first goal.”
Little Caesars kept up the pressure as Casey Borgiel made it 2-0 on the power play when her wrist shot handcuffed Assabet goalie Anya Zupkofska. Then Elyssa Biederman picked up a loose puck in her own zone and outraced the field to make it 3-0, and Malachino drove Zupkofska from the game with 46 seconds left in the period when her shot from behind the net pinballed off bodies in front and trickled into the goal.
At that point Assabet coach Kelly Horan went to the bench and brought in Avery Callison to stem the tide.
Assabet snapped the Little Caesars tournament shutout streak after 120:08 minutes when Avery McInerny picked the pocket of a defender and fed Sophia Ensley in the slot for her fifth goal of the tournament. Ellie Mabardy would cut the lead to 5-2 with 41 seconds left in the period to breathe new life into the Assabet locker room at the break.
“We had a couple of lucky bounces to begin the game,” Joseph said. “But even after we jumped out to the lead, I never thought the game was over. They kept on fighting right up until the final buzzer.”
Little Caesars will face another Bay State contender in the quarterfinals when they face off against the North Shore Vipers. Assabet draws another tough foe when they play the defending champion MN Green Giants.
North Shore Vipers 10, Washington Pride 0
After a scoreless first period, Mia Langlois scored the first of her three goals to open the offensive floodgates for the Vipers. In total, nine players found their names on scoresheet, including Isabelle Healey, who scored a pair of goals, and Shea Frost, who had a goal and two assists. Devon Gailizio and Lilly Tague-Bleau teamed up for the shutout.
NJ Jr Titans 5, Team North Dakota 0
The NJ Jr Titans had their power play clicking on Saturday, scoring four goals with the man advantage to notch their first victory in the tournament. Ani Kozak set the pace with a pair of goals, and Adriana Urban and Abigail Hehl pitched in with a goal and an assist apiece. Helena Cerutti stopped all 10 shots she faced for the shutout.
Buffalo Bisons 2, MN Green Giants 1, SO
Lara Beecher scored the winning goal in an exciting shootout as the Buffalo Bisons handed the MN Green Giants their first loss of the season. Bison forward Ella Huntley scored the tying goal early in the third period to force bonus hockey. After surrendering a first-period goal to Lauren O’Hara, Elizabeth Simmons was stellar in goal for the Bisons, stopping 33 shots. Despite the loss, the defending champions who came into the tournament with an 18-0-0 record, won the USA division to advance to the quarterfinals. The Bisons finish the week 1-1-1 record and barely missed out on advancing.
Anaheim Lady Ducks 4, Dallas Stars Elite 2
Alexandra Lalonde’s hat trick propelled the Anaheim Lady Ducks to their first victory of the tournament. Lalonde also set up Megan Martodam for another goal of her goal. Kiera Tallas and Ella Park teamed up to backstop the host team to victory. Victoria Petruska and Kayson Ruegge each had a goal and an assist for Dallas.
Hartford Jr Lady Wolfpack 3, San Jose Jr Sharks 1
The Lady Wolfpack had their power play clicking as they scored three times with the man advantage. Skylar Kline set up both Iva Filipovic and Meghan Montanaro for second-period goals, and Molly Jordan added a goal in the final frame. Emma Rathje scored for the Sharks.
Pittsburgh Pens Elite 3, Chicago Mission 2
Katherine Khramstov scored a pair of power-play goals in the second period to help erase an early deficit as the Penguins improved to 3-0-0 in the preliminary round. Cecelia Messner also scored for the Pens. Alexandra Laskonis gave the Mission an early lead, and Kelly Gorbatenko added a third-period tally to cut the lead. The Pens finished atop the standings in the Liberty division and will take on the Chicago Young Americans. The Mission will face the East Coast Wizards.
East Coast Wizards 5, Chicago Young Americans 4
Angelina DiGirolamo and Gwyn Lapp scored third-period goals to help the East Coast Wizards rally past the Chicago Young Americans to remain perfect in pool play. They finished first in the NHL division and will take on the Chicago Mission. Indi Wagner added a pair of second-period goals, and Daphnee Kalogeropoulos stopped 11 shots to earn the win. Luiza Santos scored a hat trick to pace CYA, who still found their way into the quarterfinals where they will play the Pittsburgh Pens Elite.