IRVINE, Calif. – In the world of tournament hockey, yesterday’s foe can quickly become today’s best friend.
One day after going toe to toe, the Buffalo Regals became the biggest cheerleaders of the Connecticut Polar Bears as they faced off against Shattuck-St. Mary’s.
In a jigsaw puzzle of “what-if” scenarios, the Regals needed to take care of business against the Pittsburgh Pens Elite, a team that had already punched their ticket to the quarterfinals, and then hope that the Polar Bears could beat Shattuck in regulation.
The Regals held up their end of the bargain with a dominating 3-0 victory, and then quickly turned their attention to the adjacent rink where Shattuck and Polar Bears were locked in a close battle.
When the ice chips settled, there were bodies scattered all over the ice and Shattuck players casting a sigh of relief after a 2-1 victory that included the potential tying goal waived off with 18.4 seconds remaining.
“At this time of year you need a little puck luck,” said Shattuck head coach Peter Johnson. “Every game we played here was a one-goal game. Some we won and some we didn’t.”
Their only loss in the preliminary round against the Pens Elite was the first time in eight trips to Nationals that Johnson hasn’t had a team advance with a perfect record. That left him in the unfamiliar position of coming up with the right pregame speech to fire up his team without heaping any more pressure on their young shoulders.
“You want to give them your best do-or-die speech, but you don’t want to make them nervous,” the veteran coach said. “You have to find a happy medium of staying positive while also expressing the urgency. I just kind of winged it.”
Whatever Johnson said seemed to work as Shattuck struck first as Carson Zanella skated out of the corner and fired a low drive that beat Mandy Busky.
The Polar Bears clawed back early in the second period as Jules Constantinople picked off an errant clearing pass and fired a low drive past Lauren Barbro.
Shattuck regained the lead later in the period as Busky got made a toe save on Jose Medeszoon’s shot but was helpless as Grace Canterbury was there to bury the rebound.
Looking for the equalizer, the Polar Bears pulled their goalie with 2:42 left. That quickly turned into a two-man advantage when Kara MacLean was whistled off for a roughing penalty. With time winding down, Constantinople made one last push, skating down the wing and wristing a shot that hit off Barbro’s mask and bounced over her shoulder. The official whistled the play dead before puck crossed the goal line.
Buffalo Regals 3, Pittsburgh Pens Elite 0
In what was a do-or-die game, the Regals held up their end of the bargain with gut-check performance. Annika Balk’s first of two goals snapped a scoreless tie in the second period, and Mia Wendell and Hannah Barrett teamed up to stop 24 shots from the Pens. The Regals also needed the CT Polar Bears to beat Shattuck-St. Mary’s in regulation time to advance.
Boston Jr. Eagles 3, Washington Pride 0
Hope Walinski stopped all 14 shots she faced as the Boston Jr. Eagles advanced to the quarterfinals. Brianna O’Neill had a goal and an assist in the third period to break open a close game. Kiley Mastel opened the scoring with her fourth goal of the tournament.
Belle Tire 5, Anaheim Lady Ducks 0
A strong opening period was more than enough to lift Belle Tire to their second victory of the tournament. Annabelle Scriver scored the first of her two goals to trigger a three-goal outburst in the opening frame. Ella Blackmore and Samatha Sensoli also scored. Peyen Steinhebel stopped 14 shots to earn her first shutout of the tournament.
Chicago Mission 3, East Coast Wizards 1
Madison Gagliano and Ellie Kaiser helped the Mission jump out to the lead, and Gabrielle Marciniak made it stand up as the Mission improved to 3-0-0 in preliminary round play. Christina Vote’s goal late in the second period brought the Wizards within one, but Anya Wallandt’s empty net goal sealed the deal for Chicago.
MN Elite Gray 5, Philadelphia Jr Flyers 0
Jada Habisch scored a pair of goals, and Sydney Langseth pitched in with three assists to back the 17-save performance by Alex Pellicci.
Dallas Stars Elite 4, Mid-Fairfield Stars 3
Julia Wysocki scored a goal and added an assist to lift the Stars to their first victory in a back and forth affair against Mid-Fairfield. The Stars erased three deficits before Naya Penn converted a Wysocki pass for the game winner. Morgann Skoda had a goal and an assist to pace the Stars attack.
Bay State Breakers 5, Rochester Youth Hockey 3
A pair of second-period goals from Abby Newhook helped the Breakers jump out to a big lead before holding off a late charge from Rochester. Skylar Irving added a goal and two assists, including a big helper on Katie Pyne’s empty net goal to seal the win. Goals in the final two minutes from Kirsten Simms and Laila Edwards kept Rochester within striking distance. The Breakers will face Shattuck-St. Mary’s in the quarterfinals, while Rochester will take on the Pittsburgh Pens Elite.