It’s been a banner season thus far for the Minnesota Lakers. In fact, they’re the lone Tier I 14U girls’ hockey team in the country to not have a loss.
In 19 games during the fall season, the Lakers went 18-0-1. Now they are hoping to carry over that successful run into the 2020 Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier I 14U National Championship.
The Lakers won the Minnesota district in the fall by downing the Minnesota Walleye 6-2 on Oct. 5, and then taking care of the Minnesota Moose 6-1 in the championship game the next day.
“Going into it, we were feeling good and the girls were playing well together,” Lakers coach Brooke White-Lancette said. “Really throughout the time we were able to practice together and play games each weekend we just got the chemistry. It made things fun, and they were definitely ready for the playoffs and ready for the games, so it was great.”
This will be the team’s first trip to USA Hockey Nationals.
“Some are playing youth, some are playing high school, so just to be able to play with each other then and go to Nationals where they’re getting to see other competition and other teams from all over is great,” White-Lancette said. “We can basically show the Minnesota brand and be proud of that.”
It’s been a special season for the Lakers, who pull players from the western suburbs of the Twin Cities. The team has outscored its opponents 126-20, with only two one-goal contests and a 3-3 tie against the Walleye on Sept. 14.
“We move the puck really well, and again, individually, they’re all very skilled. But as a team they’re even better,” White-Lancette said. “It’s just nice to see unselfish play and being able to move the puck quickly. But they also have the skill, so when it comes to shooting and their hands and things like that, they’re very skilled in all those areas.”
White-Lancette doesn’t think her team’s history of big wins will affect her girls much when it comes to the tough competition in the national tournament.
“I think because the girls have such high expectations of themselves and they work hard, I think they’re going to bring their best game every game no matter who they’re playing,” White-Lancette said. “We’re expecting [tight] games, and we’ll be ready for that.”
Allowing just one goal per game and notching six shutouts shows just how impressive the Lakers’ defense has been. White-Lancette said her defense relies on speed and having good size in the back.
White-Lancette has had a great time coaching the team this season. She loves being able to teach young players, and it keeps her on her toes as a player as well. For the past 16 years, White-Lancette has been a forward on the Minnesota Whitecaps of the NWHL.
She’s a role model to the girls and someone the players can pattern their game after.
“It’s really great,” White-Lancette said. “They really supportive. They get excited. They come to the games.”
White-Lancette is amazed by the abilities of her players. She said she’s proud to play a piece in their development.
“You look at where the professional league is going now and you take a look at these girls and they’re talented,” White-Lancette said. “They’re not even in college yet. They’re 14 years old, and to see some of the things they’re doing at 14 years old is just unbelievable.”
White-Lancette is looking forward to getting her girls back together to prepare to do some damage at nationals.
“Coming back and building that chemistry again is big,” White-Lancette said. “The team is very skilled, so being able to put all those pieces together. But we definitely want to be able to come out of the shoot right away and be able to dominate.”
The Lakers will have home-ice advantage since the entire girls Tier I tournament will be held at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota, which is a northern suburb of the Twin Cities. The team played three of its games this season at the facility, so the girls know the rink well.
“They’ve played at Blaine and home turf and things like that, so they’re definitely comfortable to be able to have their parents and everyone here, friends and family,” White-Lancette said. “Having all that support is definitely a plus.”
Having the tournament in Minnesota pushes the Lakers players to perform better and hopefully that will propel them to bring home a National championship.
“We definitely have our sights on winning it and obviously that’s what you strive for,” White-Lancette said. “You take it one game at a time and one shift at a time and work together and good things happen.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.