TAYLOR, Mich. — It was a clean sweep for the Belle Tire girls Tier I program, as it captured the USA Hockey Michigan District Tournament titles in all three age groups. The 14U, 16U and the 19U squads all advanced to the 2020 Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier I National Championships, which is scheduled to begin April 2 in Blaine, Minnesota.
Belle Tire’s 14U squad nipped Little Caesars 3-2, the 16Us edged HoneyBaked by the same score in overtime and the 19U team defeated Meijer 4-1 on the second Sunday in March at the Taylor Sportsplex.
Belle Tire’s 14U team was perfect all week, finishing 3-0 in the round robin before beating Little Caesars in the finale. Belle Tire jumped out to a 3-0 lead on goals from Natalie Millman, Sydney Jackel and Ava Mattaliano, who scored what proved to be the winning goal.
Cassie Hall and Ava Perrone scored for Little Caesars.
Belle Tire head coach Paul Goleniak was proud of his girls’ effort throughout the week.
“After we built the three-goal lead, we allowed them to get back in the game,” said Goleniak, who also had a daughter Erika playing with the 16U team. “We called a timeout after the second goal and we settled back down and returned to playing the way we needed to play.”
After that, goaltender Teagan Brown shut the door the rest of the way.
“We battled really hard and the girls were really good in clearing the puck out of harm’s way in front of our net,” said Brown. “It seemed after we gave up that second goal, we got our composure back and we were solid the rest of the way.”
After the game, Mattaliano described the winning goal.
“There was a scrum in front of their goalie,” she said. “The puck was underneath the goalie and I just poked it into the net.”
Little Caesars head coach Brandon Kaput felt the game was in the balance until the end.
“The comeback was fun to see,” said Kaput. “I thought the girls stepped up when we needed them, and I thought our goalie, Ava McIllmurray, battled back. The team had a positive energy during the entire contest.”
Belle Tire 19U sweeps to nationals
In the final game of the morning, Belle Tire’s 19U team completed the sweep with a 4-1 win over Meijer. Like the 14U team, the 19U Belle Tire squad won all three of their round robin games before capturing the district title.
Celesta Paolucci scored a pair of goals to lead the way and Haley Battles and captain Sarah Beck scored single markers. Evelyn Andrade netted the lone goal for Meijer.
“I think we just stuck to our process of what has got us here,” Belle Tire head coach Mike Vigilante explained after the win. “We were patient and we continued with our game plan. Nothing is easy at this time of the year.”
The 19U Belle Tire team has been involved with a lot of one-goal games this season and Vigilante was glad about a three-goal lead.
“It was nice for a change to have some insurance as the game went on,” he said.
Beck, who scored Belle Tire’s third goal of the game, rejoined the team this season to add veteran leadership.
“I could not have been more proud of the girls, they really bought in this year,” she said.
Round robin highlights
In Little Caesars 14U’s 12-0 win over Meijer, Cassie Hall contributed three goals and five points … Erika Goleniak had a pair of goals to go along with an assist in Belle Tire’s 16U 10-0 win over Meijer … Both Jenna Nikles and Kaia Malachino scored five goals each in Little Caesars 16U’s win over Meijer … At the 19U level, Hannah Berkowitz and Evelyn Blaise-Savoie scored for Meijer in a 2-0 victory over Little Caesars.
Tier I tournament stat leaders
Cassie Hall (Little Caesars) led all Tier I 14U scorers with seven points while Sydney Jackel (Belle Tire) and McKenzie Siroky (HoneyBaked) tied for the goal-scoring lead with five each. Maggie Kime (Belle Tire) led in assists with four.
Ella Blackmore (Belle Tire) and Kaia Malachino (Little Caesars) led all Tier I 16U scorers with eight points and Malachino led in goals with eight. Blackmore and Morgan Neitzke (Little Caesars) tied with five assists.
In Tier I 19U, Ana Gustafson (HoneyBaked) led in points with three, Ashley Printzen (Meijer), Haley Battles (Belle Tire) and Sarah Beck (Belle Tire) tied with two goals and Gustafson, Riley Brengman (Belle Tire) and Samantha Sensoli (Belle Tire) tied with two assists.