AMHERST, N.Y. — The Vermont Shamrocks knew they had to work hard and earn their goals the further they got into the 2019 Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls’ Tier II 16U National Championships.
“Pat Burke, our founder of the program, talked to us before we left,” Vermont coach Dan French said. “Gritty goals win championships. He reminded the players, you are going to have to work hard.”
Blue collar, hard-working goals is what Vermont got in their 5-0 win Monday over the Baldwin/River Falls (Wisconsin) BlackCats.
“I was very impressed with how hard the team played,” French said. “Seventeen players worked their backsides off from the first shift to the last. Really worked hard to win this championship.”
BlackCats coach Michael Delong said, “It was a great game. The Shamrocks played well. We couldn't get past their goalie. We had a heck of a lot of opportunities. Two good teams playing real hard hockey.”
Shannon Moran made 27 saves for the shutout.
“It's amazing [to get the shutout],” Moran said. “I'm so happy and I'm so proud of my team. It's not just me. It's them, too.”
Vermont took a 2-0 lead within a two-minute span in the middle of the first period. Abby Chauvin snuck one through from close range which the BlackCats appeared to not know went in. Abby Robbins also snuck one through from a difficult angle.
An early goal in the second period exemplified the hard work and effort it takes to win a title. A wild scramble occurred in the crease which resembled a rugby scrum. Somehow the puck remained loose before, finally, Lilly Truchon banged it in through sheer force.
“As you go further into the playoffs, everyone gets better and the goalies get better and you are not going to get any easy ones,” French said. “Most of the goals in the championship are hard-working, blue collar goals. Wisconsin we knew was going to be a tough team in front of the crease. We just had to outnumber them and outwork them and keep pushing right to the whistle.”
Lydia Bullock got an empty net goal from center ice with 1:04 left. Then, with the goalie back in, Madison Chagnon scored on a quick rush, the only “pretty” goal of the game to seal it at 5-0.
The third period saw Baldwin/River Falls try everything to get one by Moran. They even had a full two-minute five-on-three power play. On another power play, the puck was loose behind the goalie, but it never found its way in. Late in the game, Moran stopped a breakaway with a superbly executed kick save.
“I try and just blank everything out,” Moran said of the breakaway. “Just pay attention on the player.”
Baldwin/River Falls took the long road to nationals, losing in the USA Hockey Central District tournament but getting an at-large bid. They parlayed that into a national runner-up finish.
“We're feeling down right now when you lose a final,” Delong said. “But the accomplishments they had [this season are] incredible.”
Vermont almost didn't make it to Amherst for nationals. Though they did very well in their own district tournament, they needed a goal with 3.5 seconds left in the championship game to get to nationals.
Once there, thanks to hard work and a blue-collar attitude, it was party time.
“It's crazy,” Moran said of the locker room scene. “We got our two songs, ‘Living on a Prayer’ and ‘Tonight's the Night’ and we're celebrating, dancing.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.