AMHERST, N.Y. — When two rivals who are very familiar with each other get together, you are bound to have a memorable game.
This one, too, lived up to the hype.
The North Shore Vipers withstood a furious third-period comeback attempt to claim the 2019 Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier II 14U National Championship, 5-3, over the rival Boston Jr. Eagles.
A four-goal Vipers lead disappeared with three unanswered scores by the Eagles, thanks to some defensive breakdowns.
“A little hiccup there,” North Shore coach Michael Littlewood said. “They’re 13-, 14-year-old girls, and they get to 3-0 and 4-0, and they start thinking the game is over. Got a little loose there and had a couple of little mistakes in the neutral zone which turned into goals.”
Boston coach Brian Sullivan said, “We came out a little slow the first two periods. We fought right ‘til the end. The girls all year just didn’t quit.”
Pauline Vien finally got Boston on the scoreboard at 8:23 of the first period.
“We just needed that goal to get us going,” Sullivan said. “The confidence started to build.”
Four minutes later, Olivia Maffeo scored on the power play. Forty-two seconds after that, Vien pulled her team to within one.
However, Samantha Taber completed a hat trick with an empty net goal to allow the Vipers' coaches, parents, and fans to breathe again.
“We just ran out of time,” Sullivan said.
Taber thought she had the first goal of the game when early in the first it appeared she roofed a shot. However, the official was right on the goal line and immediately waved it off, saying it hit the crossbar and came down and back out.
“We just told them to shake it off,” Littlewood said. “We thought it was a goal. Maybe it wasn't. I told them, ‘That's not going to be how the game ends anyway. It's not going to be a 1-0 game. You have to go down there and try to bury another one.’”
Bury one they did when Cabral Julia's shot late in the first hit the goalie in the shoulder and trickled down her back and into the net.
Taber scored perhaps the most sensational goal early in the second when she toe-dragged through the legs of a defenseman and went in alone on the goalie, then wristed it past her.
“She's electric,” Littlewood said. “We have a lot of electric players on the team. We're really deep. We really value getting all the girls on the ice and everybody gets equal playing time. That really helps us because the team chemistry is awesome.”
Even the goalies got equal time, splitting each game in the tournament.
“We came ready to play,” Taber said. “[The goal] brought my team to become more motivated.”
Julia Pellerin made it 3-0 just 30 seconds into the third period. Taber got her second midway through for what appeared to be an insurmountable 4-0 lead. Then, 37 seconds later, Boston began their comeback which fell just short.
“It feels great,” Taber said of the national championship. “We're all so happy.”
These two teams follow similar philosophies. They chose to have a lot of these players play Tier II because they wanted to keep all the eighth graders together, believing it's better for development. They get one skills week, two practices, and are not losing girls to high school games.
“It's been a great rivalry,” Littlewood said. “The Eagles were very similar. They chose to do that model as well. We match up really well.”
This win, the most important one, put North Shore at a 4-2 advantage over their rivals this season.
“It's been a pretty big rivalry between us and the Vipers all year long,” Sullivan said. “They are a heck of a team.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.